Meningococcal outbreak recorded in US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is one of the worst outbreaks in US history

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Florida’s Department of Health are investigating one of the “worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in US history,” and are urging citizens to get vaccinated.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the CDC claims that there have been at least 27 cases and six deaths from meningococcal disease in Florida since April 2022. Among those cases, six deaths and 24 infections were in “men who have sex with men” as well as persons living with HIV.

Meningococcal disease includes meningitis – an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord – as well as bloodstream infections, both of which can quickly become fatal. The bacteria are spread through sharing respiratory or throat secretions such as saliva or spit, and usually takes prolonged exposure to spread, i.e. kissing or being close to someone who is coughing.

“Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be deadly,” warned the CDC, noting that there are three serogroups of meningococcal bacteria that cause the most cases in the United States – B, C, and Y.

The agency says that the large outbreak seen in Florida is due to the Serogroup C bacteria which was found among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. About half of the cases were reported among Hispanic men. The CDC has urged these groups to get a MenACWY vaccine if they live in Florida or plan to travel there.

Another, unrelated outbreak was caused by Serogroup B bacteria, which was found among three college and university students living in Florida and health officials are recommending that students living in on-campus housing and participating in a fraternity or sorority get a MenB vaccine series.

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Common symptoms of meningococcal disease include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea or vomiting or a dark purple rash, said the CDC, urging people to immediately seek medical attention if they notice any of these symptoms. It also warned that the disease can first appear as a flu-like illness, but that it typically worsens much quicker.

José Romero, the director at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, insists that “Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly.”

“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,” Romero urged.

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