Health · June 24, 2022

Florida meningococcal outbreak among gay and bisexual men is one of the worst in US history: CDC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating one of the worst cases Meningococcal outbreaks in gay and bisexual men in US history, according to a recent press release.

“Vaccination against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious, quickly fatal disease,” said Dr. José R. Romero, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Due to the outbreak in Florida and the number of Pride events taking place across the state in the coming weeks, it is important that gay and bisexual men residing in Florida be vaccinated, and those traveling to Florida, talk to their healthcare provider about vaccination MenACWY vaccine.”

The agency has reported at least 24 cases and 6 deaths among gay and bisexual men linked to this disease, with about half of the outbreak cases occurring in Hispanic men.

The CDC panel recommends seniors get newer flu vaccines

The cases related to the current outbreak mostly affect those living in Florida, but also some who have traveled to the state.

Hold a test tube with blood in it.  Handwritten label with HIV on it with negative check mark crossed.

Hold a test tube with blood in it. Handwritten label with HIV on it with negative check mark crossed.
(iStock)

The CDC recommends the MenACWY vaccine, which protects against meningococcal disease caused by four strains of the meningococcal bacteria — A, C, W, and Y.

The agency noted that all HIV patients should be routinely immunized with the MenACWY vaccine.

The outbreak is caused by serotype C, but there are six serotypes that cause the disease worldwide, although serotypes B, C, and Y primarily cause most meningococcal cases in the United States.

WHO MEETING ABOUT MONKEYPOX, POSSIBLE GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY

The CDC is also monitoring a monkeypox outbreak in countries that don’t typically report the disease, with early data showing high numbers among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

As of June 23, 173 monkeypox/orthopoxvirus cases have been reported in the United States, including approximately 16 cases in Florida, according to the CDC website.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium called meningococci.

About 10% of people are colonized with the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat, which means they are “carriers” who harbor the bacteria in their bodies without getting sick.

People carry the rainbow flag as they participate in the Miami Beach Pride Parade along Ocean Drive on September 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.

People carry the rainbow flag as they participate in the Miami Beach Pride Parade along Ocean Drive on September 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It is transmitted through close contact, usually coughing, kissing, or prolonged contact.

It’s not as contagious as cold or flu germs, so people don’t contract the bacteria through “casual contact” or by breathing in the air that has been exposed by someone with active meningococcal disease.

But when the bacterium enters the body, it can cause two main diseases: sepsis, in which the bacterium enters the bloodstream and causes organ damage; and meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes (known as the meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Close-up of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entrance sign.

Close-up of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entrance sign.
(iStock)

Typical symptoms of meningitis can begin as flu-like symptoms that quickly progress to fever, headache, and a stiff neck as the bacteria infect the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Meningococcal sepsis, also known as meningococcemia, causes bleeding into the skin and other organs as the bacteria multiply and destroy the walls of blood vessels, often resulting in a dull, purplish rash in the later stages of the disease.

Symptoms of septicemia also include tiredness, vomiting, diarrhea, cold extremities, rapid breathing, and severe pain in the muscles, joints, chest, or abdomen.

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“People can find a meningococcal vaccine by contacting their doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department. Insurance providers should pay for the meningococcal vaccine for those who are recommended it during an outbreak. In Florida, anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine for free from any county health department during the outbreak,” the CDC said.