A health alert has been issued by the New York City Health Department warning of an outbreak of deadly new strain of bacterial meningitis among gay men. They are recommending all gay men, regardless of HIV status get a vaccination.
Four new cases of meningitis among men who have sex with men have been reported in 2013. Three of the last five cases have been fatal.This strain of bacterial meningitis is very different. The symptoms of this variant go from a headache and fever to a rash and death within hours of onset. So fast that many of its victims never make to a doctor or a hospital. It has killed one third of all its victims. Four new cases of meningitis among men who have sex with men have been reported in 2013. Three of the last five cases have been fatal.
March 6, 2013 – The Health Department issued new recommendations today for vaccinating against invasive meningococcal disease – commonly known as meningitis – after an increase in cases. Vaccinations are now advised for men, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have intimate contact with other men met through a website, digital application (“App”), or at a bar or party.
Four new cases of meningitis among men who have sex with men have been reported since the beginning of January, bringing the total to 17 cases since 2012. There have been 22 reported cases – including seven fatal cases – since 2010.
“Meningitis symptoms usually come on quickly, and the disease can be fatal if not treated right away,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “Vaccination is the best defense. I urge all men who meet these criteria – regardless of whether they identify as gay – to get vaccinated now and protect themselves from this disease before it is too late.” [..]
Vaccination prevents, but does not treat, current infection. Common symptoms of meningitis are: high fever, headache, stiff neck, and rash that develop rapidly upon onset. Symptoms may occur two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days. Meningitis can be fatal if not treated promptly. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.
People should first ask their health care providers if they have the vaccine. For those who cannot obtain the vaccine from their health care providers, Health Department clinics can administer the vaccine. Locations are listed at the Health Department’s Site Locator.
The recent meningitis cases have affected men throughout the five boroughs. Elected officials throughout the City are encouraging people to get vaccinated.
The meningitis vaccine is available at many health clinics, hospitals and private doctors’ offices, and is effective against the new strain. To find out where you can be vaccinated in NYC call 311.