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Risk Factors

montage of people and image of a plane.Certain groups of people are at increased risk for meningococcal disease. For some of these groups, there are recommended vaccines that prevent two of the three major serogroups ("strains") of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria that cause most illness in the United States. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against meningococcal disease.

Some risk factors include:

  • Age
    • Meningococcal disease is more commonly diagnosed among infants, adolescents and young adults. A vaccine is available and recommended for all 11 through 18 year olds. A vaccine is also available for infants and children 6 weeks through 10 years of age, but it is only routinely recommended for those with certain medical conditions or who are traveling to specific countries. Learn more about certain age groups being at risk.
  • Community setting
    • Infectious diseases tend to spread quickly wherever large groups of people gather together. As a result, first-year college students living in residence halls are at slightly increased risk compared with other persons of the same age. A vaccine is available and recommended for all first-year college students living in a residence hall. However, any college student can receive the vaccine to decrease their chances of getting meningococcal disease. People entering the military will receive a meningococcal vaccine before basic training. Learn more about those in community settings being at risk.
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Travel
    • Travelers to the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa may be at risk for meningococcal disease, particularly during the dry season. Learn more about travelers at risk.

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