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CDC on the Meningococcal Disease Outbreak: Gay and Bisexual Men Should Get Vaccinated if Living or Traveling to Florida

The federal agency says this is one of the worst outbreaks of this disease among these groups in US history, and has public health officials concerned as people gather during ongoing Pride Month activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement this week urging gay, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men to get a meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) if they either live in, or plan to travel to Florida.

This comes on the heels, of at least 24 cases and 6 deaths in these populations that have been reported.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” said José R. Romero, MD, 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 health care provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.” 

The meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccines Menactra and Menveo are indicated for people 2 months of age up to 55 years depending on the vaccine. In addition, a newer meningococcal conjugate vaccine, MenQuadfi (MenACWY-TT), is a prophylaxis measure against invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis in individuals beyond the traditional cutoff at age 55 years.1

In addition, in a population that is at a higher risk of HIV, a recent study conducted by investigators found that people with HIV were at a 4.5- to 12.9-fold increased risk of meningococcal disease compared to an otherwise healthy population.2

CDC reminds the public that symptoms can appear suddenly and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash. Symptoms can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly. People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria.

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

People can get meningococcal vaccines through their provider’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department. According to CDC, insurance providers should pay for meningococcal vaccination for those whom it is recommended for during an outbreak. And in Florida, anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak.

CDC continues to work with the Florida Department of Health to investigate this outbreak.

References


1. Bach A, Lee H, Lewis J. What’s new with non–COVID-19 vaccines. Contagion. February 2022 (Vol. 07, No. 1).

2. Lutz R. Meningococcal vaccine uptake low for new HIV patients. Contagion. June 7, 2022. Accessed June 24, 2022. Meningococcal Vaccine Uptake Low for New HIV Patients. https://www.contagionlive.com/view/meningococcal-vaccine-uptake-low-for-new-hiv-patients