6 Dead amid Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in Florida: CDC

6 Dead amid Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in Florida: CDC

Six people are dead and 24 cases have been reported amid an outbreak of meningococcal disease in Florida that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling “one of the worst … among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.”

In a Wednesday news release, the CDC said they are “recommending gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men get a meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) if they live in Florida, or talk with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated if they are traveling to Florida.”

“CDC is also emphasizing the importance of routine MenACWY vaccination for people with HIV,” the group added.

According to the CDC, “Recent data show that about half of the cases associated with” the serogroup C outbreak “are among Hispanic men,” and the outbreak “is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but has also affected some people who have traveled to Florida.”

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Meningococcal meningitis

Meningococcal meningitis
Meningitis bacteria
| Credit: Getty

In the release, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. José R. Romero said, “Because of the outbreak in Florida, and the number of Pride events being held across the state in coming weeks, it’s important that gay and bisexual men who live in Florida get vaccinated, and those traveling to Florida talk to their healthcare provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.”

Symptoms of meningococcal disease “can appear suddenly and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash,” the CDC said, noting that the disease “can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly.”

“Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria,” they said, explaining bacteria is passed “by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit).”

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According to the CDC, “anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak” in the state of Florida.

Along with “men who have sex with men,” the Florida Department of Health is recommending vaccinations during the outbreak to all college/university students, immunocompromised people, people living with HIV and anyone who last received a MenACWY more than five years ago.

The CDC says meningitis, which is an infection of the spinal cord and brain lining, and bloodstream infection are the two most common types of meningococcal diseases.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” Romero added in the CDC news release.