Teenagers who plan to share a passionate kiss with their latest sweetheart on Valentine's Day might want to think twice. A study released last week in the online issue of the British Medical Journal found that intimate kissing increases the risk of meningococcal disease for adolescents and young adults, already at a higher risk of the disease.
Meningococcal disease, also called meningitis, is a severe bacterial infection of the bloodstream or lining of the brain. About 2,500 cases are reported each year in the United States, and about 300 people die.
Incidence of the disease rose in the 1990s. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a new vaccine to prevent the disease. The vaccine is recommended for adolescents because cases peak in the teen years.
Previous studies have shown that teens sharing close living quarters, such as college dorm rooms, are at higher risk. However, the new study, performed by researchers at the University of London, found that intimate kissing, especially with multiple partners, increases the risk of almost fourfold. Researchers suggested that changing personal behavior to avoid intimate kissing with multiple partners -- especially during cold and flu season -- could reduce cases of the disease.