CDC warns FL facing deadly meningococcal disease outbreak among gay, bi men: ‘Get vaccinated!’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging gay, bisexual, and “men who have sex with men” who reside in Florida to get a MenACWY vaccine as a “large, ongoing outbreak of meningococcal disease” sweeps the Sunshine State.

“There is a large, ongoing outbreak of meningococcal disease in Florida, primarily among gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV,” the CDC stated in a health warning issued Thursday. “There have also been cases reported in the state over the last few months, including multiple cases in college students. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that the cases among college students are related to the larger outbreak.”

“Florida’s increase in meningococcal disease cases is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but also has affected some people who have traveled to Florida,” the CDC added.

 

According to the Florida Health government website, meningococcal “is a serious disease caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.”

“Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu,” Florida Health states. “People do not catch the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been. It requires close contact over a period of time, or direct contact such as kissing or sharing drinks.”

Meningococcal disease can lead to meningitis, which is an infection and swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and potentially to an infection of the bloodstream called “septicemia.”

“This is a rare but potentially devastating disease,” Florida Health warns.

Initially, symptoms — such as fever, headache, and a stiff neck — are comparable to those of a flu-like illness, but they can worsen quickly to include nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, confusion, and a rash. If left untreated with antibiotics, the disease is often deadly.

The CDC is recommending the MenACWY vaccine for those living in Florida, and recommends that those planning to travel to the state speak to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated.

“Ideally, people would get vaccinated with one dose (or the 2-dose series for people with HIV) at least 2 weeks before traveling,” the CDC states.

It also recommends the vaccine for all 11 to 12 preteens, followed by a booster when they reach their Sweet Sixteen, adding that multiple doses of the same brand of vaccine are needed for the best protection.

In a digital pamphlet aimed at informing gay and bisexual men about the risk of meningococcal disease, the CDC warns of the importance of early treatment.

“It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible,” the CDC states. “However, about 1 to 2 out of every 10 people who get meningococcal disease will die from the infection, even with quick and appropriate treatment.”

According to a statement issued by the Florida Department of Health on Thursday, “Thus far, the number of cases identified in 2022 surpasses the 5-year average of meningococcal disease cases in Florida. FDOH epidemiologists are investigating each case as well as contacting people with potential or direct exposure to known cases to provide them with information and treatment options.”

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