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USA | May 24, 2022

CDC sounds alarm at ‘meningitis-causing outbreak’ in Florida

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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US authority observes growing incidence of meningococcal disease spreading among the gay community, college students in state

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert on Monday (May 23), as an outbreak of meningococcal disease sweeps the southern state of Florida. 

The CDC, in an advisory, said it has discovered two clusters—one among college and university students in Leon County as well as a high incidence of the disease in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)—that highlight an immediate cause for concern. 

Data from the cluster among homosexuals suggest the outbreak was rampant among Hispanic men.

The Leon County cluster has been identified as ‘serogroup b’ of meningococcal disease while the MSM cluster was designated ‘serogroup c’.

“There is a large, ongoing outbreak of serogroup C meningococcal disease in Florida, primarily among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV. Recent data show that about half of the cases associated with this outbreak are among Hispanic men. This outbreak is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but has also affected some people who have travelled to Florida,” the CDC advised. 

“Leon County, [Florida], also reports an unrelated serogroup B meningococcal disease cluster among college and university students. This cluster has only been reported to affect people living in Florida,” the authority added.

According to the CDC, meningococcal disease is a very serious, often deadly infection, which can lead to “meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infection, both of which can quickly become deadly”.

Per the CDC, meningococcal bacteria is spread to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva). Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.

There was, however, no formal indication of the current mortality rate, as the CDC did not report if meningococcal disease-related deaths were being observed.

(Photo: Facebook @CDC)

Nonetheless, in response to the potential crisis, the national public health agency is urging both members of the gay community as well as college and university students living in Florida to get the approved meningitis vaccines. 

For the gay community and other MSM, the CDC recommends the MenACWY vaccine if they are Floridian residents or getting the jab if one intends to travel to the state. 

The MenB series of vaccines is recommended for the following categories of college and university students: 

  • Undergraduate students
  • Students living in on-campus housing
  • Those who participate in a fraternity or sorority

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