Florida is amidst a meningococcal disease outbreak that primarily affects gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with other men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging those at risk to get a vaccine.
According to the CDC, anyone can get meningococcal disease, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. However, the ongoing outbreak in Florida has mostly affected gay and bisexual men.
Data shows that about half of the outbreak-associated cases are among Hispanic men, while some patients live with HIV. Most affected people live in Florida, but some became ill after traveling to the state.
The CDC encourages gay and bisexual men living in Florida to get a MenACWY vaccine. Those traveling to Florida are advised to discuss getting the jab with their healthcare providers.
How to get a vaccine?
People can get vaccinated with MenACWY by contacting their doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or health department.
Ideally, people should get vaccinated at least two weeks before traveling.
What is meningococcal disease?
The two most common types of meningococcal infections are meningitis and bloodstream infections. Both typically appear 3 to 7 days after exposure to the bacteria and can lead to severe conditions or even death.
Meningitis is an infection and swelling of the brain and spinal cord lining. The symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. The infection can also cause nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
Meningococcal bloodstream infection damages the walls of the blood vessels and causes bleeding into the skin and organs. The symptoms may include fever or cold chill, tiredness (fatigue), vomiting or diarrhea, cold hands and feet, severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest, or belly, rapid breathing, or a dark purple rash.
The infections can be treated with antibiotics. If you think you might have meningococcal disease, seek medical help right away.
How does the disease spread?
The bacteria causing meningococcal disease spread from person to person through respiratory and throat secretions, such as saliva or spit. According to the World Health Organization, close and prolonged contact, including kissing, sneezing on someone, or living in close quarters with an infected person, facilitates the spread of the disease.