HRC Blog

Los Angeles County Urges Meningitis Vaccination for Men Who Have Sex with Men

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) yesterday issued new recommendations for vaccination against invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) after a recent increase in local cases. Of the eight IMD cases confirmed in L.A. County in 2014, four were among men who have sex with men (MSM) and three of those men died of the disease. 

Public Health is recommending vaccination for both HIV-positive MSM (including men who may or may not identify as gay or bisexual) and MSM whose activities put them at higher risk. "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 and marijuana or use illegal drugs, should visit their health provider to be vaccinated against IMD," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. 

In a press release reported by Frontiers, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Bolan echoed the Public Health recommendation. “Invasive meningococcal disease is very serious and potentially deadly. . . . Though it’s important to note that IMD is not spread by casual contact, such as being in the same room with someone who may be infected, I encourage gay and bisexual men—regardless of their HIV status, but especially those who are HIV-positive—to get vaccinated.”

Three of the four MSM who acquired IMD reported living or socializing in the West Hollywood and North Hollywood areas, and vaccination is available at multiple locations in those areas and greater L.A. County, Frontiers reported. At-risk MSM who don’t have health insurance can obtain a free vaccination at some locations.

The Public Health vaccination recommendation noted that “IMD 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.” IMD can be treated with antibiotics, particularly if it is diagnosed early.

MSM in other parts of the country who are concerned about IMD are encouraged to discuss it with their healthcare provider, since preventive vaccination is available. More information about IMD is available from the Centers for Disease Control and L.A. County Public Health.

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