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Contagious diseases

This page includes information, advice, protocols and procedures in place for a range of contagious (infectious) diseases. If you think you, or someone you know, has symptoms for any of these diseases, please contact the Student Medical Centre, your GP or the NHS. If life is in danger, call the Emergency Services on 999.

Find out more


The overall risk of Ebola to the general UK population continues to be low. The virus is only transmitted by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. You cannot catch it through social contact or travelling with someone who is infected.

There have been no cases of Ebola in the UK to date, other than the repatriation of a British Nurse in August 2014. While it is possible that the UK may see cases of imported Ebola, there is minimal risk of it spreading to the general population. Public Health England is working with government and NHS colleagues to ensure that the UK remains alert to, and prepared for, the risk of Ebola. Enhanced screening has been introduced at UK ports, such as Heathrow Airport, to identify and advise passengers coming from high-risk areas. Robust exit screening remains in place at airports in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Ebola symptoms include fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, headache and sore throat. However, these symptoms could signal more common illnesses such as flu, meningitis, typhoid fever and malaria. If you feel unwell, please seek medical advice by calling 111.

BU continues to monitor developments; any action required will be notified to us by Public Health England and will be managed via the BU Major Incident Group. Travel advice for staff and students is issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More information can be found on the NHS website or Government Public Health website.

Influenza (Flu)

During cold weather you're reminded to stay alert to the signs and symptoms of winter infections, viruses and sickness bugs, including the flu, and it's important to act quickly if you start to feel unwell.

Flu is a viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes, and more common during winter months. Symptoms include a sudden temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. These can usually be treated at home with plenty of rest, drinking lots of water and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.

You can access the NHS website which will help to explain the key symptoms associated with flu and other various common conditions, and the action you should take if you're concerned.

Staff in the Student Medical Centre are on hand to provide support and advice about any of these conditions. Please contact them on 01202 965378.


Due to recent measles outbreaks in the UK, BU would like to remind you about the symptoms and provide more information about the illness.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness. The illness causes a range of symptoms including fever, coughing and distinctive red-brown spots. Symptoms of measles appear 9-11 days after the infection begins, and last up to 14 days. The condition is most infectious after the first symptoms have appeared and before the rash has developed. The infection is spread through the air through droplets of saliva. You can catch measles through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when they cough or sneeze. The droplets can also survive and remain contagious on surfaces for a few hours.

The most effective way of preventing measles is the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which also provides protection against two other conditions – mumps and rubella. The success of the MMR vaccine means that, in the UK, cases of measles are rare. If you have not already received the MMR vaccinations contact the Student Medical Centre or your own GP to arrange a vaccination as soon as possible.

If you're worried you may have the symptoms of measles, please contact your GP. If you are aware of any students who may be concerned or who are displaying the symptoms of measles, please refer them to the Student Medical Centre (01202 965378) or their local GP.

You can find our more information from the NHS website or the Health Protection Agency.


Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viruses and bacteria, and can also lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning). There are several strains of meningitis; a new vaccine protects against four strains of the bacterial infection – A, C, Y and W. Anyone in the appropriate age group will be eligible to get the vaccine, whether starting university or not, and GPs will be writing to the following groups to encourage them to get vaccinated as soon as possible:

  • All 17 and 18-year-olds (school year 13, born between 1/9/1997 and 31/08/1998)
  • 19-year-olds who missed getting vaccinated last year (anyone born between 1/9/1996 and 31/08/1997)
  • First-time students up until the age of 26 are also advised to get the vaccine
  • All individuals under 25 years who have never received a dose of MenC vaccine are eligible to receive MenACWY vaccination.

If you haven’t had the vaccination, or had it as a child and may require a booster, please contact the Student Medical Centre or your GP. Of course, the vaccination won’t protect you against other strains of the disease. It is therefore very important to remain vigilant whether you have been vaccinated or not. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best defence against this serious disease. Find out more about about protecting yourself against meningitis and septicaemia on the NHS website, FAQs on Men ACWY vaccine and the NHS Men ACWY vaccination leaflet (pdf 329kb).

Symptoms include:

  • severe headache
  • high temperature/fever
  • vomiting
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • pale, blotchy skin
  • drowsiness/lethargy
  • joint pains
  • cold hands and feet
  • rash of red/purple spots which looks like bruising under the skin.

Only some of these symptoms may show.

If you are worried that you may have the symptoms of bacterial meningitis, or if you think you have observed them in someone else, seek immediate medical advice from the Student Medical Centre on 01202 965378. The Centre is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, term times only. At all other times you can contact the Talbot Medical Centre on 01202 636400 or NHS 111. If the situation appears to be an emergency, call 999.

More information about meningitis is available from the NHS and the 24-hour national help lines of the meningitis charities:


BU has been awarded the Meningitis Aware Recognition Mark (MARM) for Universities 2017/19.


Norovirus is a very common viral infection causing vomiting and diarrhoea, it's highly contagious, but is usually a mild illness. It's also known as the 'winter vomiting bug', however, you can catch the virus at any time of the year.

The incubation period for Norovirus is anything from 24 hours to three days, the onset is sudden and symptoms usually last 12-48 hours. Keeping yourself hydrated is key; drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains. Practising good hygeine, as well as staying at home, will prevent the disease from spreading:

  • wash your hands frequently
  • don't share towels and flannels
  • disinfect surfaces that an infected person has touched.

Stay at home – don't go to see your GP, as antibiotics have no effect on Norovirus, the illness just needs to run its course. For more information visit the NHS website.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a bacterium (germ), and usually affects the lungs, but can affect any part of the body.

Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria are usually spread in the air. TB is caught from another person who has an active TB infection of the lungs. The bacteria get into the air when that person coughs or sneezes. You need close and prolonged contact with them to be at risk of being infected.

The main symptoms include:

  • Cough which lasts for more than a month
  • Weight loss
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Blood in spit or sputum (phlegm) at any time.

If you're worried you may have the symptoms of tuberculosis, please contact your GP. If you are aware of any students who may be concerned or who are displaying the symptoms of tuberculosis, please refer them to the Student Medical Centre (01202 965378) or their local GP.

For more information visit the NHS website.