In Victoria between 1990 and 1996, meningococcal infections occurred in 1–2/100000 people each year, with sometimes devastating outcome. In 1997, a typical year, we conducted a case-control study of all cases notified to the State Disease Control Unit, to investigate personal, environmental and lifestyle risk factors. In bivariate analysis many exposures were statistically significantly different (at P = 0·01) in cases and controls. The level of risk, and specific risks, differed between children (under 16) and adults (16 years and over). In multivariate analysis few exposures remained significant (at P = 0·05). However, these included having a smoker amongst close contacts, exposure to construction dust, recent illness, a history of snoring and speech problems, and sharing a bedroom. Besides confirming some previously identified risk factors, this is the first time that snoring and speech problems have been identified as risk factors for meningococcal disease.