CDC Investigates Meningococcal Disease Outbreak in Florida

The meningococcal disease outbreak has been linked to at least seven deaths, the CDC warns.

A meningococcal outbreak in Florida has led to at least 24 illnesses and seven deaths, resulting in an investigation by federal disease experts and warnings for all gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated if they live in the state or plan on travelling to Florida.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Meningococcal warning June 22, indicating that men who have sex with other men should get the meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY), after identifying one of the worst known outbreaks of the disease.

At least 24 illnesses and seven deaths have been confirmed, primarily among men in Florida. However, it has also affected men traveling to Florida from other states.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in the CDC warning. “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.”

Meningococcal bacteria spreads by sharing respiratory and throat secretions via saliva or spit. The bacteria can be spread during close or lengthy kissing or being near someone when they are coughing.

The Florida Department of Health and the CDC continue to investigate the outbreak. The CDC recommends people experiencing any symptoms of meningococcal disease contact their doctor or go to the emergency room. Symptoms can appear suddenly and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash. Symptoms can initially appear as flu-like, but often get worse quickly.

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Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be deadly. It includes meningitis, infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and bloodstream.

You should also talk to your doctor about the vaccine if you are traveling to Florida and you may be at risk. The vaccine is also important for people with HIV.

You can find a vaccine by contacting your doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department and insurance should cover the cost, according to the CDC. In Florida, anyone can get an MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak.

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