CDC: 7 deaths in Florida amid ‘one of the worst epidemics of meningococcal disease in gay and bisexual men in US history’

CDC: 7 deaths in Florida amid 'one of the worst epidemics of meningococcal disease in gay and bisexual men in US history'

On Wednesday, health officials recommended Florida men who have sex with men get the meningococcal vaccine following what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called “one of the Worst Epidemics of Meningococcal Disease Among Gay and Bisexual Men in U.S. History”.

The CDC said in a statement that there have been at least 24 cases and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men caused by the bacteria in Florida recently. The CDC has also recommended that gay and bisexual men traveling to Florida ask their health care provider to obtain the vaccine.

“Due to the outbreak in Florida and the number of Pride events being held across the state in the coming weeks, it is important that gay and bisexual men who live in Florida get vaccinated and those traveling to Florida are talking to their healthcare provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine,” said José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria, and when the membranes of the brain and spinal cord are infected, it is called meningitis.

Meningococcal disease typically presents as a meningitis infection or blood infection about three to seven days after exposure, the CDC said. Both are serious and can be fatal.

  • Meningococcal meningitis occurs when “the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord” become infected and swell. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, and stiff neck, and can sometimes include nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
  • Meningococcal blood infection damages the walls of blood vessels and causes bleeding in the skin and organs. Possible symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, cold hands and feet, severe pain, rapid breathing, and a dark purple rash.

Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but they must begin soon after symptoms start, according to the CDC, because one to two in 10 people who get the disease die.

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