Your Risk

It's a rare infection and teens and young adults have the highest incidence of meningococcal disease, after babies and young children.1

This age group is the second most likely to develop meningococcal meningitis, after infants and young children up to four years of age.1 This is an age when many people mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their nose and throat.

Up to 24% of 19-year-olds carry the bacteria without having any symptoms2

2 in 8 people

Even when meningococcal meningitis is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started promptly, the consequences can be severe. Meningococcal meningitis can cause death in as little as 24 hours from the first symptoms.3

Meningococcal meningitis is usually spread by people who carry the bacteria in their nose or throat, but are not ill themselves.4

A devastating disease caused by bacteria that can be carried and spread from person to person6,7

intimate-kissing icon

Intimate kissing

smoking icon


clubbing icon

Attending bars, clubs and mass gatherings

utensils icon

Sharing eating or drinking utensils

dormitary icon

Living in dormitories

coughing icon

Coughing and sneezing

Some people carry meningococcal bacteria at the back of their nose and throat without having any symptoms.3 Adolescents and young adults are more likely to carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis than some other age groups.7

In addition to coughing and sneezing, common social behaviours and environmental factors such as intimate kissing and smoking may promote the spread of bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis.7 People exposed to these factors may be more likely to carry the bacteria without having any symptoms, but are still able to pass the disease on to others.6,8,9



1. Parikh SR, et al. Epidemiology, clinical presentation, risk factors, intensive care admission and outcomes of invasive meningococcal disease in England, 2010-2015. Vaccine. 2018;36(26):3876–81. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.02.038.

2. Christensen H, et al. Meningococcal carriage by age: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2010;10(12):853–61. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70251-6.

3. World Health Organization. Meningococcal vaccines: WHO position paper, November 2011. Weekly Epidemiological Report. 2011;47,(86):521–40.

4. National Health Service. Meningitis: causes. Last Accessed September 2019

5. National Health Service. Routine childhood immunisations. Last Accessed September 2019

6. World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis factsheet. Last Accessed September 2019

7. Tully J, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;332(7539):445–50. doi: 10.1136/bmj.38725.728472.BE.

8. Memish ZA, et al. Invasive meningococcal disease and travel. J Infect Public Health. 2010;3(4):143–51. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2010.09.008.

9. MacLennan J, et al. Social behavior and meningococcal carriage in British teenagers. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(6):950–7.

PP-VAC-GBR-1277 September 2019

Take Action

There are vaccinations that can help protect young people against meningococcal meningitis. Many young adults have missed out on their MenACWY vaccination, which is free on the NHS. Follow this link to find out whether you are entitled to a vaccine against some types of meningococcal disease free of charge.4