Published On: Thu, Apr 3rd, 2014

LA County: Rise in meningococcal disease in MSM prompts new vaccine recommendations

In light of the increase of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) cases in Los Angeles County, health officials issued new recommendations yesterday concerning the vaccination of Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM).

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) announced that in 2014 to date, they have confirmed a total of eight IMD cases in the county. Of these eight cases, four cases were reported among men who have sex with men (MSM), including three men who were HIV-positive.

Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

All HIV-positive MSM and all MSM, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, or who seek partners through the use of digital applications, particularly those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, should visit their health provider to be vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “At- risk MSM who dont have health insurance can obtain a free vaccination through the Department of Public Health.”

Some areas of commonality among the cases include: Of the four IMD cases among MSM, three reported either residence in, or socializing around, the West Hollywood and North Hollywood areas, and three were between 27-28 years of age (the fourth case was 50 years of age).

High-risk activities for IMD include smoking (marijuana, cigarettes, and hookah), close contact with an infected person (sharing beverages or cigarettes, kissing, coughing) and staying in group settings (such as dorms, jails or shelters) for a prolonged period of time.

Meningococcal disease is an acute, potentially severe illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. About 10% of people have this type of bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease, called being ‘a carrier’.

Neisseria meningitidis bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. It can cause very serious diseases like meningitis and bloodstream infections.

Disease symptoms may include: high fever, stiff neck, altered mental status, skin rash, severe headache, low blood pressure, aversion to bright lights, and generalized muscle pains. Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may present as many as 10 days after exposure. IMD progresses rapidly, so immediate diagnosis and treatment is imperative.

The infection can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and even death.

The current meningococcal vaccine can prevent two of the three most common types of meningococcal disease in the United States, including the most common type identified in Los Angeles County. Although meningococcal disease can be treated with appropriate antibiotics if detected early it is often not diagnosed until it has become life- threatening.

Public Health will be offering free meningococcal vaccine to LA County residents without health insurance, beginning Thursday, April 3. For a listing of clinics, please call the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1 from any cell phone or land line in the county or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.


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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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