A new deadly type of meningitis is on the rise in the UK but few of us know about it.
My family learned the hardest way possible. It's called MenW (meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia) and by reading this blog you might save a life.
Last October I just happened to be seeing the nurse at my local GP practice the week that my 18 year old daughter Lauren was due to start university in Bournemouth. The nurse mentioned that Lauren should get the MenACWY vaccine.
As it turned out, the practice told us that they did not have enough of the vaccine in stock and Lauren would have to wait two weeks to get it. We were not told anything about this new MenW strain.
Lauren started university and an appointment was booked for her to get the jab next time she was home. But that turned out to be too late.
Our beautiful daughter had only been at university for a week and a half before she became ill.
The first thing she mentioned on the Thursday was a headache but she put it down to being a bit stressed about starting university. She was also quite sick but she was sure she had food poisoning from something she'd eaten. The next morning she had a neck ache and back ache.
Lauren's boyfriend Harry went to see her on the Friday and during the early hours of Saturday he called me saying that Lauren was shaking and a bit hot. I looked this up and found it could be a sign of food poisoning or stress. Her symptoms were nothing that anyone would run to A&E with.
On Saturday Lauren and Harry travelled home to Essex. She said her legs hurt but we thought it was tension as she had run five miles on the Wednesday. She ate some dinner, had a bath and went to bed.
On Sunday morning she was very cold, especially her hands and feet. We were not aware that was a sign of septicaemia. Suddenly her symptoms got a lot worse so we called for an ambulance. Lauren died in the few minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive.
We later learned that she had died from MenW. If we'd been told about the MenACWY vaccine sooner, Lauren could have had the vaccine and she would never have got MenW.
The MenACWY vaccine was introduced in 2015 to control spread of the disease. Although children get the vaccine in school now, there are many young people who were too old to get it in school and they need to get it from their GP instead.
If you know anyone aged 17-20, tell them to see Meningitis Research Foundation's eligibility checker and book an appointment with their GP to get the vaccine if they need it.
Anyone who is under 25 and starting university for the first time this year should also be able to get the vaccine.
GPs are meant to call in their patients who are eligible to get vaccine, but this was not the case for Lauren, and low uptake of the vaccine in this age group would suggest that many others have not been told.
Teenagers are most likely to carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of the nose and throat than any other age group. Young people going off to university are at high risk of meningitis because they mix with so many other people, some of whom will be unknowingly carrying the bacteria, but all eligible people need to get the vaccine whether they are going to university or not.
If everyone who is entitled to the free vaccine has it, this will not only protect them but over a few years it will also help protect the rest of the population because there will be less of the bacteria around.
The biggest danger of this illness is that it looks like nothing. A lot of people think of the rash when they think of meningitis and septicaemia but I now know that in most cases of MenW the rash never appears. That's why the vaccine is so important to prevent it happening in the first place.
Losing Lauren has devastated our whole family and our lives will never be the same without her. I know Lauren wouldn't want any other family to have to go through the same thing we have.