SYDNEY, Nov 17 - While schoolies is considered a rite of passage for many Australian teens, it also means increased exposure to the very serious and often deadly disease.

"The risk of contracting meningococcal can increase when older teenagers are in close proximity for a lengthy time, particularly in environments like schoolies," warned Professor Robert Booy, medical adviser at Meningococcal Australia.

Booy says being in crowded situations where close contact occurs, coughing or passionate kissing are all ways that meningococcal disease can spread.

However, the expert acknowledged that asking young people to abstain from close contact is unrealistic and is calling on teens to get vaccinated if they haven't already.

In 2016, meningococcal W became the most common strain of meningococcal disease in Australia.

In response to the rise, six states including NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory and WA introduced free but time-limited vaccination programs in high schools. 

In some states, the vaccine is only available for free until the end of the year.