Your Guide to Meningococcal Disease

meningitis bacteria


Who is most susceptible?

  • People living in close quarters i.e. college students and boarding school students who live in dorms, athletes who share locker rooms and water bottles, kids at summer camp.
  • Although there is no known medical reason why meningitis–which is transmitted through saliva–would spread more readily among gay and bisexual men, these specific populations are disproportionately affected in New York, Chicago, and Southern California. Federal, state and local public health officials are working together to investigate the recent outbreaks in these regions.
  • Adults with compromised immune systems (cancer patients, HIV+ individuals).
  • Smokers and others who share cigarettes.
  • Intravenous drug users.
  • Those who live in hot climes. Exposure to airborne dust and high temperatures are significant risk factors for contracting bacterial meningitis, a new study demonstrates.
  • People who haven’t been vaccinated! NOTE: there is a meningitis vaccine. Get vaccinated–especially if you are a college student.

Genetic Factors?

Although meningitis itself isn’t congenital (people aren’t born with the disease) or genetic (inherited), a person’s susceptibility to meningitis has been shown to be heritable. That is to say, scientists believe a person’s parents who contract viral and bacterial diseases more easily pass on their increased susceptibility to their kids.


  • Children under age five are most at risk.
  • Teens and adolescents also have an increased risk.
  • Adults older than 60 have an increased risk.

What vaccines are available?

There are no vaccines to offer protection against all forms of meningitis and meningococcal disease.

  • There is a new vaccine that protects against Meningitis B. The CDC recommends that people receive the serogroup B vaccine between the ages of 16-23, with a preferred age of 16-18.
  • It’s recommended that all adolescents get meningococcal A, C, W and Y vaccine at age 11-12 with a booster dose at 16.
  • Meningitis C vaccine – given to babies at three and 12-13 months.
  • Pneumococcal Meningitis vaccine – given to babies at two, four, and 12-13 months.


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