Another gay man has been found to be infected by meningitis, bringing to 11 the total number of infections in Los Angeles County so far this year, four of which involve gay or bisexual men, including at least one in West Hollywood.
The latest infection was reported in an email by Dr. Benjamin Swartz, deputy director of the Acute Communicable Disease Program at the L.A. County Department of Public Health to community leaders including West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran, who forwarded it to WEHOville.
In his message, Swartz said the young man “currently is hospitalized and is receiving appropriate medical treatment.”
The cases involving gay and bisexual men have been reported within the past two months. When Long Beach and Orange County are included, there have been a total of seven cases involving gay or bisexual men in Southern California since the beginning of May. Swartz said there are an estimated 300,000 men who have sex with men in Los Angeles County, which has a population of more than 10 million people. At least one of the cases involves a young gay resident of West Hollywood. He is active in the Varsity Gay League, a gay sports league. “Monday night I was hospitalized with incredibly high fevers and a multitude of side effects,” he posted on his Facebook page last week (WEHOville is not revealing his name out of respect for his privacy among those who aren’t his Facebook friends). “My highest temperature so far has been 104.6. I am one sick puppy!” He has recovered and yesterday posted a warning to his friends to get a meningitis vaccination.
Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal if not treated soon after infection. In 2013 members of the Los Angeles County gay community were panicked by news of the death of Brett Shadd, a young gay lawyer and real estate agent in West Hollywood, who died of the disease.
Swartz reiterated an earlier recommendation that gay and bisexual men get vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease. That vaccination is suggested both for those who are HIV positive and those who are HIV negative. The recent cases have all involved HIV-negative men.
“Recognizing that the number of cases is substantially increased over what would be expected, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has asked the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in the local investigation,” he said.
“Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted through close personal contact and can be spread from person to person by small droplets of respiratory secretions from the nose and throat,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement. “Gay and bisexual men may be at increased risk of meningococcal disease if they have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, regularly visit crowded venues such as bars and parties, or smoke cigarettes, marijuana or illegal drugs. State health officials urge all HIV-infected persons and gay and bisexual men who may be at increased risk for meningococcal disease to consider receiving MenACWY (the acronym for the vaccination).”
Vaccinations are free of charge at public health clinics for all people at higher-risk, regardless of health insurance status,” Swartz said. The Public Health Department offers free meningococcal vaccine to L.A. County residents without health insurance. For a listing of clinics, call the L.A. County Information Line at 2-1-1 from any cell phone or landline in Los Angeles County or go online here.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center will offer free vaccinations at its McDonald/Wright Building at 1625 N. Schrader Blvd. in Los Angeles beginning Monday. Also, the City of West Hollywood has released a list of vaccination resources.