LA County Urges All Sexually Active Gay Men to Get Vaccinated Against Invasive Meningococcal Disease

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health), in conjunction with the County of Orange Health Care Agency and City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, is expanding vaccination recommendations for Invasive Meningococcal Disease to include all gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in addition to all persons with HIV infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health have assisted local health departments with the investigation and management of this outbreak. After analysis of all information related to this increase in cases, the local health departments have collectively agreed to expand the recommendation to include all gay/MSM rather than only those in ‘high risk’ groups.

“We acknowledge this broadens our prior recommendations, but, after careful consultation with the CDC and Health Officers in other affected jurisdictions, we consider that this expansion of the vaccination recommendations is a necessary step to suppress this outbreak,” said LA County Interim Health Officer, Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH.

In addition to other persons for whom the meningococcal vaccination is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, vaccination of individuals in the following categories is now recommended:

  • All HIV-positive people
  • All gay/MSM

Vaccinations are free of charge at Public Health clinics for all people at higher-risk, regardless of health insurance status. Vaccination can also be obtained from providers who serve the LGBT community and at other healthcare settings. Visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/index.htm for locations and hours.

There has been an increase above the typical number of reported cases for this time of year across southern California. Excluding cases from Long Beach and Pasadena (which have their own health departments), in LA County there have been 13 cases (seven of these cases are gay/MSM). No deaths have occurred in LA County due to these infections.

Decrease the Risk of Infection:

  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent this disease.
  • Limit activities that spread saliva:
    • Don’t share drinks, utensils, food, or toothbrushes.
    • Don’t have multiple kissing partners.
    • Don’t share things you smoke, like cigarettes, e- cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs.

About Invasive Meningococcal Disease: Meningococcal disease is a rare, but serious disease that can lead to swelling in the brain and spinal cord, loss of a limb, deafness, brain damage or even death. Meningococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria known as Neisseria meningitidis. The illness most people are familiar with is meningitis. It can be spread to others through the respiratory secretions of people who carry the bacteria without symptoms in their nose and throat. Meningococcal disease can start with flu-like symptoms, and progress to high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and rash. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.