The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health are investigating “one of the worst epidemics of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history,” the CDC said Wednesday.
The CDC said Thursday there were 26 cases and seven deaths from meningococcal disease in Florida during the investigation period. Of these, 24 cases and six deaths involved men who have sex with men.
The CDC says the epidemic is “primarily affecting gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV. Recent data shows that about half of the cases associated with this outbreak are in Hispanic men. This outbreak is primarily affecting people who live in Florida, but has also affected some people who have traveled to Florida. »
Meningococcal disease includes meningitis – infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord – and blood infections. “Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be fatal,” the CDC said in its statement.
The bacterium is spread by sharing respiratory or throat secretions, such as saliva or saliva. It normally takes close or prolonged contact, such as kissing or being close to someone who is coughing, to spread the bacteria.
Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea or vomiting, or a dark purple rash, the CDC said. Although they may appear like the flu at first, they usually get worse very quickly. If anyone has these symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.
The CDC recommends that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men get the meningococcal vaccine if they live in Florida, or talk to their health care provider if they’re traveling to the state. For those living with HIV, health officials stress the importance of routine immunization.
“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious disease, which can quickly become fatal,” said Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Vaccination and Respiratory Diseases, in the press release of the CDC. “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 health care provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.”
The vaccine is offered at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, community health centers or local health departments, the CDC said, and insurance should cover the cost for people for whom the vaccine is recommended during an epidemic. Anyone in Florida can get vaccinated for free at county health departments during the outbreak.
According to the CDC, the epidemic affecting men who have sex with men is caused by serogroup C. There is also an unrelated serogroup B group among college and university students in one county.
The meningococcal disease outbreak update comes as the CDC has been tracking an unusual outbreak of monkeypox in countries where the disease is not endemic, including the United States. CDC reports have identified 142 cases of orthopoxvirus in the United States, including 13 in Florida.
The threat to the general U.S. population is low, according to the CDC, but there are particularly high numbers of monkeypox cases among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. “However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone with monkeypox is at risk,” the CDC notes.