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Meningitis - What Increases Your Risk

A risk factor is anything that makes you more likely to get a certain disease. Risk factors for meningitis include:

  • Genetics. Some people may inherit the tendency to get meningitis. If they come in contact with organisms that can cause the infection, they may be likely to get infected.
  • Being male. Males get meningitis more often than females.
  • Crowded living conditions. People in camps, day care centers, schools, and college dormitories are more likely to get meningitis.
  • Being exposedto insects and rodents. People who live in or visit areas of the world where insects or rodents carry germs that cause meningitis risk getting the disease.
  • Not getting childhood immunizations. People who didn't get shots for mumps, Hib disease, or pneumococcal infections before age 2 are more likely to get meningitis.
  • Being an older adult who hasn't gotten a pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Not having a working spleen, which is part of the body's immune system.
  • Travel to areas where meningitis is common. For example, people traveling to the "meningitis belt" in sub-Saharan Africa should get a meningococcal shot.

Medical problems that can increase your risk include:

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  • Having a birth defectof the skull, a head injury, or brain surgery.
  • Having kidney dialysis.
  • Having other infections, such as upper respiratory infections, mumps, tuberculosis (TB), syphilis, Lyme disease, and illnesses caused by herpes viruses.
  • Having a cochlear implant for severe hearing loss. Studies show that children with cochlear implants have an increased risk for bacterial meningitis.5, 6
  • Being born to a mother infected with an organism that causes meningitis. Viruses such as the enteroviruses and herpes viruses, as well as some bacteria, can be passed from an infected mother to a baby during birth.
  • Having had meningitis in the past. Some people who have had meningitis are more likely than others to get it again. These include people with birth defects or injuries to the skull and face, impaired immune systems, or unexpected reactions to some medicines.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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