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CDC warns of deadly epidemic of meningitis among gay men in Florida | healthy aging

Cara Murez

WEDNESDAY, June 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — One of the worst meningitis outbreaks in U.S. history has prompted public health officials to urge gay and bisexual men who live in Florida or plan to visit in the state to get vaccinated immediately.

Twenty-four cases of meningitis (meningococcal disease) and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men are being investigated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Public Health. Officials said it was one of the worst outbreaks in this group.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious disease, which can quickly become fatal,” said Dr José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Due to the outbreak in Florida and the number of Pride events being held across the state in the coming weeks, it is 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.”

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MenACWY is short for the meningococcal vaccine.

The CDC also emphasizes the importance of routine MenACWY vaccination for people living with HIV.

Meningococcal disease can affect anyone. It includes infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and of the bloodstream.

Vaccination is the best protection against it.

To find out where to get vaccinated, call your health care provider, pharmacy, community health center or local health department, the CDC suggests. Insurance should foot the bill for those for whom it is recommended during an outbreak.

During the outbreak, anyone in Florida can get a free MenACWY vaccine at any county health department.

If you have symptoms of meningitis, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms may appear suddenly. They include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash.

Symptoms may initially appear as a flu-like illness, but usually worsen very quickly.

The bacteria that cause illness are spread through respiratory and throat secretions (saliva). Typically, the spread of these bacteria requires close or prolonged contact, such as a kiss or proximity to an infected coughing person.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on meningococcal disease.

SOURCE: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, press release, June 22, 2022