US sees meningococcal disease outbreak in gay, bisexual men: CDC

Published: publication date – 16:05, Thu – 23 Jun 22

Washington: The state of Florida in the US has seen one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in the country’s history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At least 24 cases and six deaths of gay and bisexual men have been reported, the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC has recommended that gay, bisexual, and other men who have physical relationships with men receive a meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) if they live in Florida, or talk to their health care provider about vaccination if they travel to Florida.

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

“Vaccination against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious disease, which can quickly become fatal,” Jose R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement.

“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 living in Florida get vaccinated and that those traveling to Florida with their healthcare provider talking about getting a MenACWY vaccine,” he added.

The outbreak comes amid a slew of infections caused by the monkeypox virus, also seen in men who have physical relationships with men. The US has seen about 156 cases, from more than 20 states. Worldwide, 58 countries have reported more than 2,580 confirmed cases of monkeypox infections.

Meningococcal disease refers to any disease caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. These diseases are often serious, can be fatal and include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and the bloodstream.

While the current outbreak is seen among gay men, the CDC claims that “meningococcal disease can affect anyone.”

People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing secretions from the airways and throat (saliva or spit). In general, close (for example, coughing or kissing) or prolonged contact is required to spread these bacteria.

However, it is not as contagious as germs that cause a cold or the flu. People don’t get the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been, according to the CDC.

The agency said symptoms can come on suddenly and may include a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting or a dark purple rash. They may first appear as a flu-like illness, but usually worsen very quickly.

The agency advises people to seek immediate medical attention if they have any of these symptoms, and also urges people to stay up to date on recommended vaccines to best protect themselves against meningococcal disease.

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