Meningococcal Disease Outbreak Affecting Gay, Bisexual Men In Florida: Health Authorities

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Health authorities are warning of a meningococcal disease outbreak in Florida. It has primarily been affecting gay and bisexual men, as well as those living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) announced on April 7 that it has been responding to a meningococcal disease outbreak in the state. According to the agency, the cases this year have already surpassed the five-year average of cases in the state.

Although most of the cases have been among people who live in the state, the outbreak has also affected people who traveled to Florida, the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted. Furthermore, there have also been reported cases among college students recently, although it’s still unclear if these cases are related to the outbreak.

As the CDC explained, Meningococcal disease is “very serious, often deadly.” Some of its early symptoms include fever, confusion, headache, vomiting and stiff neck.

“If you have symptoms of meningococcal disease, seek medical care right away,” the CDC said. “Symptoms of meningococcal disease can first appear as a flu-like illness and rapidly worsen.”

The disease is caused by the bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which is not quite as contagious as other diseases such as the common cold. Instead, it requires close or direct contact for a period of time, such as when sharing drinks or kissing, the FDOH noted.

Both agencies stress that meningococcal disease is preventable via the meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine, which is why being up to date with one’s vaccines is said to be “the best protection against meningococcal disease.”

As such, they are urging the following to get the meningococcal vaccine: gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men (whether they have HIV or not), those living with HIV, those who are immunocompromised and college and university students.

Those in these groups should also consider getting the vaccine if it has been more than five years since they got the MenACWY vaccine, according to the FDOH. The CDC is also stressing the importance of the routine MenACWY vaccine.

To get information about the vaccine, people may contact their health care provider, pharmacies or county health departments. People may find information about their state’s local health departments here.

So far, the FDOH is already investigating the cases and contacting those who may have been exposed to the known cases.

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