CDC warns of meningococcal disease outbreak in Florida, encourages men who have sex with men to get vaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning after a recent outbreak of meningococcal disease, mostly among men who have sex with men, in Florida. The health agency encouraged men who are gay, bisexual and have sex with men and live in the state to get vaccinated against the disease.

It also said men who are visiting the state should speak to their healthcare provider about the MenACWY vaccine, which prevents the disease. The vaccine comes in a one dose series, or two doses for those who live with HIV. People who are traveling to Florida should get vaccinated at least two weeks before their trip.

The disease can be transmitted during extended close contact or direct contact, like sharing drinks or kissing, according to the CDC. It is not as transmissible as something like the cold or the flu.

Meningococcal disease usually presents as an infection of meningitis or a bloodstream infection about three to seven days after exposure, the CDC said. Both are serious and can be deadly.

  • Meningococcal meningitis is when “tissue covering the brain and spinal cord” becomes infected and swollen. Symptoms usually include fever, headache and stiff neck, and can sometimes include nausea, vomiting and confusion.
  • Meningococcal bloodstream infection damages the walls of the blood vessels and causes bleeding into the skin and organs. Possible symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, cold hands and feet, severe aches, rapid breathing and a dark purple rash.

Meningococcal disease is treatable with antibiotics, but they must begin soon after symptoms begin, the CDC said, as one to two in every 10 people who contract the disease die.

Additionally, the CDC said outbreaks have been reported on college campuses in Florida. It encouraged preteens between the ages of 11 and 12 to get one dose of the vaccine. Then, teenagers can get a booster shot at the age of 16.

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