The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced its continued collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in response to what it describes as “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.” The CDC has recommended vaccination for at-risk men in response to the outbreak, which has resulted in 24 cases and six deaths to date.
“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” José R. Romero, M.D., Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement. “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.”
There are at least 13 different groupings of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Six basic serogroups – A, B, C, W-135, X, and Y – are responsible for nearly all cases of the disease worldwide. Instances of meningococcal disease in the U.S. are almost exclusively caused by serogroups B, C, and Y, and are treated with two vaccines – meningococcal conjugate or MenACWY vaccines and serogroup B meningococcal or MenB vaccines. The CDC is recommending the MenACWY vaccine because the current outbreak in Florida is related to serogroup C.
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The CDC reports that meningococcal disease can affect anyone with deadly infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream.
Symptoms for meningococcal disease include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, and a dark purple rash. Symptoms may initially mirror those of the common flu but worsen quickly. Meningococcal bacteria can be spread through respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit), which is why meningitis is sometimes known as the kissing disease.
Contact your doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department to obtain a vaccination for meningococcal disease. Insurance providers should cover the cost for those under recommendation for the vaccine. In Florida, the MenACWY vaccine is available free of charge at any county health department during the outbreak.