The CDC is reporting “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history” and recommended some men who have sex with men get vaccinated.
There is currently no evidence the disease is transmitted sexually. It is NOT a ‘gay virus’ – anyone can get meningococcal disease, but certain groups are at increased risk, including infants, adolescents and young adults. College students who live in residential halls are at particularly high risk.
Federal and state health officials are investigating an outbreak of the usually rare disease in Florida, which is primarily infecting queer men/ men with same-sex partners.
The upturn of cases started earlier in 2022 and, as of Thursday, CDC reports at least 26 cases and seven deaths (nearly 30%) from meningococcal disease in Florida during the investigation period, per CNN.
Among those, 24 cases and six deaths were in men who have sex with men.
The mortality rate for meningococcal disease is historically 10-20%.
The CDC shared, “Recent data shows that about half of the cases associated with this outbreak are among Hispanic men. This outbreak is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but has also affected some people who have travelled to Florida.”
Meningococcal disease is not a sexually transmitted disease, but is transmitted through close contact such sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit, which might typically occur while being intimate).
Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing.
“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” said Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
“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.”
Find out if you should be getting vaccinated on the CDC page, by clicking here.
Meningococcal disease presents in two ways: as meningitis, when the linings of the brain and spinal cord become infected, or as septicaemia, a bloodstream infection that damages the walls of the blood vessels and causes bleeding into the skin and organs.
Symptoms for both include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
A bloodstream infection can induce diarrhoea, cold hands and feet, severe aches, rapid breathing, and a dark purple rash.
The strain of meningococcal being detected in the current outbreak is serogroup C. There is an unrelated serogroup B outbreak being seen among students in one county.
Meningococcal disease is treatable with antibiotics, but they must begin immediately after symptoms start to be effective.
More info below:
Traveling to Florida for #Pride events? If you’re a gay or bisexual man, talk with your healthcare provider about getting a #meningococcal vaccine. Learn more about the vaccine and meningococcal disease outbreak in Florida: https://t.co/2PWUgzp6DP. pic.twitter.com/ibcz4KiDEV
— CDC (@CDCgov) May 27, 2022