FLORIDA (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health are investigating 24 cases and seven deaths in Florida’s meningococcal disease outbreak.
“One of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in US history,” the CDC said.
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The CDC says the outbreak is primarily affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, including those with HIV. Recent data shows that about half of the cases linked to this outbreak are among Hispanic men. This outbreak mainly affects people living in Florida, but also some people who have traveled to Florida.”
Meningococcal disease includes meningitis — infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord — and bloodstream infections. “Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and be fatal,” the CDC said in its statement.
The bacteria is spread by sharing respiratory or throat secretions, such as saliva or spit. Close or prolonged contact, such as kissing or being close to someone who is coughing, is normally necessary to spread the bacteria.
Symptoms include a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea or vomiting or a dark purple rash, the CDC said. While they may show up as the flu at first, they usually get worse very quickly. If anyone has these symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention.
CDC recommends that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men get the meningococcal vaccine if they live in Florida, or talk to their health care provider if they travel to the state. For those living with HIV, health officials emphasize the importance of routine vaccination.
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“Vaccination against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious disease, which can quickly become fatal,” said Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in the CDC press release. “Due to the outbreak in Florida and the number of Pride events being held across the state in the coming weeks, it is important that gay and bisexual men living in Florida are vaccinated and that those traveling to Florida talk to their health care provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.”
The vaccine is offered in doctors’ offices, pharmacies, community health centers or local health departments, the CDC said, and insurance should cover the costs for people for whom the vaccine is recommended during an outbreak. Anyone in Florida can get the vaccine for free from county health departments during the outbreak.
According to the CDC, the outbreak in men who have sex with men is caused by serogroup C. There is also an unrelated serogroup B cluster among college and university students in one county.
The update on the meningococcal disease outbreak comes as the CDC has been monitoring an unusual outbreak of monkeypox in countries where the disease is not endemic, including the United States. The CDC reports have reported 142 cases of orthopoxvirus in the United States, including 13 in Florida.
The threat to the general U.S. population is low, the CDC says, but there are remarkably high numbers of monkeypox cases among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. “However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkey pox is at risk,” the CDC notes.
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