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New Strain of Meningitis: Outbreak Among Gay Men in NY

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NY Health officials urge some men to get vaccinated

Meningitis Outbreak New York

(AP) – NEW YORK — The New York City health department has issued new recommendations for vaccinating against a new and lethal strain of bacterial meningitis.

It says the symptoms come on quickly and the disease can be fatal if not treated immediately.

It’s only been seen in men. The patients often contract it through anonymous sexual encounters with other men. That makes it hard to trace the infection’s path.

The standard meningitis vaccine is effective against the new strain. The health department is advising it for men regardless of HIV status who regularly have contact with other men they meet online, at a bar or party.

The health department says 22 cases have been reported since 2010, including 13 last year and four this year. Seven have been fatal.

(ABC) – New York City health officials are urging some men to get vaccinated against meningitis amid an outbreak that has sickened 22 New Yorkers and killed seven.

The dangerous strain of bacterial meningitis appears to be spreading through sexual encounters between men who meet through websites or smartphone apps, or at bars or parties, according to the City’s health department. More than half of the infected men have had HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system making infections more likely and more severe.

“Vaccination is the best defense,” City health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. “I urge all men who meet these criteria – regardless of whether they identify as gay – to get vaccinated now and protect themselves from this disease before it is too late.”

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the brain’s membranous lining, called the meninges. Early symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a rash within 10 days of the infection. If left untreated, the disease can cause severe brain damage and even death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease is spread by “prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected person,” the health department said in a September 2012 statement after the death of a patient. While vaccination can help prevent new infections, “people that have been in prolonged close contact with infected people need to see their health-care provider immediately to receive preventive antibiotics,” the department added.

Men from all five boroughs have been infected, health officials said, declining to comment on the kinds of websites or apps involved in the outbreak.

“I strongly recommend all men who have intimate contact with other men get vaccinated,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said in a statement. “This disease is both potentially fatal and extremely contagious, so increasing the public’s awareness to this growing issue and encouraging vaccination are of the utmost importance.”

New Yorkers are advised to call 311 or search “meningitis” at nyc.gov for more vaccine information.

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