Who gets meningitis and septicaemia?

Anyone of any age can get meningitis or septicaemia, but various factors can increase the risk.

  • Geographical location - some countries have higher rates of meningitis and septicaemia than others.  For example, many kinds of meningitis are much more common in developing countries than elsewhere.  The only way to address this is through vaccination
  • Environmental factors - exposure to smoke, for example, can make you more susceptible to infection
  • Medical conditions and immunodeficiencies
  • Age is one of the main risk factors. Read on to find out more


Babies are at higher risk of bacterial meningitis than any other age group. They can get all of the main types of meningitis and septicaemia, including meningococcal , pneumococcal and Hib

The introduction of vaccines against some of these infections has decreased the risk to babies, but there are still types of meningitis and septicaemia for which there is no vaccine. So it is important to know the symptoms in babies and to protect your baby as much as possible through immunisation. 

In the UK and Ireland, every routine injection offered to babies in the immunisation schedule protects against meningitis.

Newborn babies are also particularly susceptible to meningitis caused by other types of bacteria such as GBS, E. coli and Listeria.

Newborn babies are particularly susceptible to meningitis caused by GBS , E. coli and listeria.

Symptoms in babies


Toddlers are also at increased risk of meningitis, although the risk is not as high as in babies.  Baby and toddler immune systems are still developing and this is why they are more likely to be infected than older children and adults when they encounter the bacteria.  

Symptoms in toddlers

Young adults

Teenagers and young adults are at risk mainly from meningococcal disease.  The introduction of the MenC vaccine has dramatically reduced cases of Group C meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.  However, Group B and other rarer types of meningococcal disease continue to cause cases in teenagers.  If you are going off to college and have not already had the MenC vaccine make sure you get it.

Symptoms in young adults

Elena Banda
Bacterial Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis at 10 Months

It took me an hour to walk to the health clinic from my home

More stories