(Nation World News) — Don’t be surprised if you see the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at this year’s LGBTQ pride parade or appear on their dating app.
The CDC is trying to warn men in Florida or traveling to Florida, especially those who identify as gay, bisexual, queer or trans, that they need to receive a vaccine that can prevent meningococcal disease. prevent it from happening. Meningococcal disease, including meningitis, is a bacterial infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
There is an ongoing outbreak in Florida that the CDC describes as “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in US history.”
As of this Friday, there have been 26 cases and seven deaths, 24 of them among men who have had sex with men. Six of the dead were also from the LGBTQ community. Half of the cases have occurred in men who identify as Hispanic.
The disease does not only affect people who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, and the disease does not appear to be linked to any specific event. The CDC is still investigating, but the outbreak continues.
Sam Crow, associate director of the CDC’s Department of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Disease Prevention, told Nation World News Friday that many cases of meningococcal were concentrated in central Florida, but there are now cases across the state.
Meningococcal disease does not have to be fatal. Typically, two in 10 people who contract the bacterial infection die, according to the CDC. But people who do get sick need to take antibiotics right away.
CDC plans to continue a major promotional and awareness campaign in both English and Spanish, in local newspapers, through gay-oriented media, and on social apps throughout the summer. The agency says its presence at Pride events will continue through the summer.
On the Grindr app, the company said they are working with the CDC and Building Health Online Communities, a nonprofit that supports gay men’s health, to talk about the outbreak.
Grindr said it first sent a message about the outbreak in April and then a second message to its users in Florida two weeks ago. One of the messages warns users that gay and bisexual men in Florida are at higher risk for meningococcal disease and should seek immediate care if they experience any symptoms such as a stiff neck, headache, or severe flu-like symptoms. Should do Another message talks about getting a vaccine.
People may not realize that there is an urgent need to see a doctor because the symptoms can resemble those of other health problems, such as a hangover or the flu.
“That’s part of the challenge,” Crowe told Nation World News. “High fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, even a dark purple rash. However, it can grow very quickly and cause death in a very short period of time. That’s why we tell people that If you notice those symptoms definitely go to your health care provider as soon as possible.”
Not contagious like the common cold, Crowe said, people need close contact with infected people to get sick. But “close contact” can mean living in the same household.
Meningococcal disease is spread through respiratory secretions such as saliva, or can be spread through kissing.
Crowe said, “It is very worrying that we are seeing such a large number of deaths and even those who have survived, with so many bad consequences like possible amputation of limbs and deafness. This is a very serious disease. Yes, very serious.”
People living with HIV are especially vulnerable because they are immunosuppressed.
The CDC has long encouraged people living with HIV to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease to prevent serious illness. But now CDC is asking the community to get vaccinated now, regardless of HIV. Even if they were vaccinated in childhood. Generally, protection from the vaccine wears off after about five years.
People should ask for the MenACWY meningococcal vaccine. There is another, MenB, but the serogroup C subspecies of the bacterium is what appears to be the origin of these cases among the LGBTQ community in Florida.
“The vaccine is readily available. People can go to their local health care provider,” Crowe said. “The vaccine is also available for free at the county health department. We’re trying to make sure everyone who wants the vaccine gets it as soon as possible.”
The outbreak comes as CDC monitors another unusual outbreak of monkeypox in countries where the disease is not endemic, including the United States. As of Friday, the CDC has reported 201 cases of monkeypox in the United States, 16 of them in Florida.
The CDC says the threat to the general US population is low, but cases of monkeypox are remarkably high among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. “However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk,” notes the CDC.