Teens at Risk of Meningitis

Age Plays a Part

They may not know it, but teenagers and young adults are at greater risk of getting meningococcal disease (meningitis) and are more likely to die compared to younger age groups.1

In fact, about 10% of the 500 to 1200 Americans who get meningococcal meningitis each year will die.1-3 Death rates are up to 5 times higher among teenagers and young adults (15 through 24 years of age) compared to younger age groups.4

Lifestyle Is Key

Certain lifestyle factors are thought to put healthy preteens and teens at greater risk of meningitis infection, including:5-7

  • Sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, or water bottles
  • Being in crowded situations for prolonged periods of time
  • Kissing
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Smoking (or being exposed to smoke)
  • Living in close quarters (eg, dormitories, boarding schools, sleep-away camps)

Next: Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccination


  1. Atkinson W, Wolfe S, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 12th ed. Washington DC: Public Health Foundation;2011.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Notifiable diseases and mortality tables [provisional] – week ending December 29, 2012. MMWR. 2013;61(51 & 52):ND-719–ND-732.
  3. Thigpen MC, Whitney CG, Messonnier NE, et al; Emerging Infections Programs Network. Bacterial meningitis in the United States, 1998-2007. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(21):2016-2025.
  4. Cohn AC, MacNeil JR, Harrison LH, et al. Changes in Neisseria meningitidis disease epidemiology in the United States, 1998-2007: implications for prevention of meningococcal disease. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50(2):184-191.
  5. Apicella MA. Neisseria meningitidis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2010;2737-2752.
  6. Bruce MG, Rosenstein NE, Capparella JM, Shutt KA, Perkins BA, Collins M. Risk factors for meningococcal disease in college students. JAMA. 2001;286(6):688-693.
  7. MacLennan J, Kafatos G, Neal K, et al; United Kingdom Meningococcal Carriage Group. Social behavior and meningococcal carriage in British teenagers. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(6):950-957.