Meningococcemia risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Cafer Zorkun, M.D., Ph.D. [2], Ammu Susheela, M.D. [3]


Risk factors of meningococcemia include age group of infants or old age, closed communities, seasons of winter and early spring, complement deficiency, asplenia and travel to endemic regions especially sub-Saharan African meningitis belt.

Risk Factors

  • Certain groups of people are at increased risk for meningococcal disease.
  • Episodic epidemic nature of meningococcal meningitis particularly among young children and military recruits was known since the 18th century.
  • Epidemics occur generally among poorest groups where crowding and lack of sanitation are common.
  • The bacteria can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.
  • Family members and those closely exposed to someone with the condition are at increased risk.
  • The infection occurs more frequently in winter and early spring.
  • 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


  • Adolescents and young adults 16 through 21 years of age have higher rates of meningococcal disease.
  • Infants are also at higher risk for meningococcal disease.
  • More than 50% of meningococcal disease in children 0-6 months is caused by serogroup B; serogroup Y is also more prevalent in this age group.

Medical Conditions

Community Setting as a Risk Factor

  • College students, especially first-year college students living in residence halls, are at a slightly increased risk for meningococcal disease compared with other persons of the same age.
  • Closed communities such as prisons have a high incidence of meningococcal infections


  • Travelers to the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa may be at risk for meningococcal disease, particularly during the dry season.

Risk Factors for Epidemics

  • Several conditions have been associated with development of epidemics in meningococcal belt.
  • They include the following.
  • Medical conditions: Immunological susceptibility of the population.
  • Demographic conditions: Travel and large population displacements.
  • Socioeconomic conditions: Poor living conditions and overcrowded housing.
  • Climatic conditions: Drought and dust storms.[1]


  1. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)".