Health Alert – meningococcal meningitis

You may have heard about the recent cases of bacterial meningitis among gay men in in New York and LA County.  Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord. The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the “hallmark” signs and symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck.

Most cases of meningitis in the U.S. are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections can also cause the disease.  The recent cases of meningitis in New York and LA County were caused by a bacteria called meningococcus.  This bacteria can spread through intimate contact such as sharing eating utensils, kissing, and close physical contact (including all forms of sex, of course).

Viral infections usually get better on their own.  However, bacterial infections require immediate medical treatment with antibiotics and can result in serious illness and death. It is also worth noting that persons with immune system deficiencies are particularly susceptible to the disease.

Initially, meningitis symptoms may resemble the flu, with worsening headache, vomiting, and a sudden high fever (over 101.3). People may also often develop neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.  If left untreated, people often progress to confusion, coma, and ultimately death.

There are vaccinations to prevent the deadly forms of meningitis and the Pitt Men’s Study recommends that if you are traveling to New York City or Los Angeles, and plan to be in close quarters with other gay men, you might want to consider getting vaccinated with the meningococcal vaccination.

For more information about meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website:
http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html

For more information about the recent outbreak of meningitis among gay men in New York and LA County, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/health/for-gay-men-a-fear-that-feels-familiar.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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