The L.A. County Department of Public Health today announced that another person has been diagnosed with invasive meningococcal disease, commonly known as meningitis. That brings to 13 the total number of cases diagnosed this year, with nine of those involving men and four involving women.
The man, who was identified as elderly and gay and with a long-term partner, was diagnosed with the disease earlier this month. He is the seventh gay or bisexual man living in L.A. County who has been diagnosed with the sometimes fatal disease. A young gay man who lives in another county but has been working in L.A. County also has been diagnosed with the disease.
The announcement came from Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy director of the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program at the Public Health Department. Schwartz said the man “is currently hospitalized and recovering.” The young gay man also is recovering, he said.
Schwartz said the L.A. County Department of Public Health is working with other neighboring health departments and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the increase in meningitis infections in Southern California since May, with cases occurring primarily among gay and bisexual men.
The California Public Health Department said “several outbreaks and clusters of serogroup C meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men have been reported in New York City, Los Angeles County and Chicago since 2014. Similar outbreaks have also been reported recently in Europe. Many of the men affected by these outbreaks were infected with HIV.”
“HIV-infected people are at increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease. Because of this increased risk, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended this week that all HIV-infected persons aged two months and older be routinely vaccinated with the meningococcal vaccine that protects against serogroups A, C, W and Y disease (MenACWY).
According to the California Public Health Department, “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. 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 (a meningococcal vaccine that protects against serogroups A, C, W and Y of the disease).
“All HIV-infected adults should receive two doses of MenACWY. Gay and bisexual men who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and are not HIV-infected should receive one dose of MenACWY vaccine. Those who have not been tested for HIV within the last year should be offered an HIV test along with vaccination. Adults may locate meningococcal vaccines in their area by using CDC’s Adult Vaccine Finder. Free vaccinations also are available at the LA LGBT Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The LGBT Center is providing free vaccinations, by appointment, at its McDonald/Wright Building at 1625 N. Schrader Blvd. in Hollywood. Clients who have a regularly scheduled appointment with their primary care physician at the center, or who are getting an HIV test at the McDonald/Wright Building, will be offered the vaccine during their visit. To schedule a vaccination appointment, call (323) 993-7500. A list of local non-profit groups offering vaccines can be found here.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, rash and generalized muscle pains. The time from exposure to the start of symptoms is typically just a few days. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.