After an new meningitis outbreak in Southern California left one dead and several others infected with the same strain of the meningitis bacteria, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has called on Los Angeles and Orange Counties to launch an aggressive campaign to combat the outbreak affecting primarily gay and bisexual men in those areas. So far, nine cases of the disease have been identified, with four infections occurring within the gay community of the Los Angeles area. Officials in San Francisco last week issued warnings to the LGBT community and visitors for Pride about potential meningitis risks.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AHF, urged L.A.. and O.C. public health officials to “immediately roll out an aggressive, high profile and targeted public information campaign about this latest meningitis outbreak. 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.”
A similar event occurred in 2013, which resulted in the deaths of three California gay men, and seven more in New York. New York City’s Department of Health issued strong warnings and concerns about their outbreak, while Los Angeles County officials, Weinstein says, struggled to come to a conclusion as to whether or not this was an outbreak or a “cluster” of meningitis cases.
The cause for alarm over meningitis is not unfounded. Bacterial meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can kill within hours and can leave survivors with brain damage, learning disabilities, or a loss of hearing. Information on who needs a meningitis vaccine can be found here (if you have HIV, the answer is yes, because you already have a compromised immune system).
California residents can get vaccines at a local AHF clinic or at a nearby pharmacy like Walgreens, which routinely offers meningitis vaccines.