Three years after a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis killed two Los Angeles gay men and a San Diego student, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials this week warned that a new outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease is again hitting gay men.
L.A. County Public Health has confirmed nine cases of IMD this year in L.A. County and four (45 percent) have been gay men.
“We are calling on L.A. County Health officials to immediately roll out an aggressive, high profile and targeted public information campaign about this latest meningitis outbreak,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “We urge Los Angeles County and other affected health jurisdictions to quickly ramp up their supplies of vaccines and partner with the community in vaccination efforts as well as educating the community. We are ready and willing to partner with the county in vaccine and prevention efforts and will try to make vaccines available at our Southern California area AHF Wellness Centers next week.”
The meningitis vaccine provides protection for five years, so any individual who was vaccinated during the cases or outbreaks reported in 2013 or 2014 does not need to get a booster shot or be re-vaccinated now.
The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically symptoms develop within three to seven days after exposure and include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. There can also be more serious symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion. Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as those that cause diseases such as the common cold or influenza. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact.
West Hollywood recommends that men who have sex with men take action on the L.A. County Public Health recommendations by visiting a primary care or other healthcare provider to get a vaccination against invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities. Although meningococcal disease can be treated with appropriate antibiotics if detected early, prevention is the best medicine.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center will offer a state-funded no-cost meningococcal vaccine for high-risk community members beginning July 5 at its McDonald/Wright Building, located at 1625 N. Schrader Blvd.
Until the State-funded vaccines are available, HIV-positive patients at the Center receive the vaccine through their provider, and high risk HIV-negative patients may receive the vaccine for approximately $120 per dose, for a two-dose series. For more information, call (323)860-5855 or visit www.lalgbtcenter.org.
In West Hollywood, the MinuteClinic at CVS/pharmacy, located at 8491 Santa Monica Blvd., offers meningococcal vaccine for a fee, though the MinuteClinic will accept health insurance coverage. For more information, call (866)389-2727 or visit http://www.minuteclinic.com/CA/Los-Angeles/West-Hollywood.aspx.
The Men’s Health Foundation and the Southern California Men’s Medical Group will offer the meningococcal vaccine to patients with or without insurance. They are located at 9201 Sunset Blvd., Suite 812. For information, call (310)550-1010 or email email@example.com
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also offers free meningococcal vaccine to L.A. County residents without health insurance. For a listing of clinics, call L.A. County at 2-1-1 from any cell phone or landline in Los Angeles County or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/Docs/meningitisclinics.pdf.
For more information about recommendations from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the agency’s background of reports about meningitis, visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/DiseaseSpecific/dontswap.htm
For additional details and communications from the Los Angeles County Health Alert Network, visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/lahan
For clinical information regarding invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/.
For information about West Hollywood’s effort to encourage recommendations for vaccinating against invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), contact Derek Murray, Social Services Program Administrator, at (323)848-6478. People who are deaf or hearing impaired can call TTY (323)848-6496.
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