Health warning for Florida’s gay men: bacterial meningitis

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The Florida Department of Health is issuing a warning for gay men, suggesting they educate themselves about the risks and signs of bacterial meningitis.

Men who have recently traveled to New York or Los Angeles should take extra caution. More information after the jump:

Here’s the full news alert from the Florida Health Department:

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) recommends that the Men having Sex with Men (MSM) population educate themselves on the risks associated with bacterial meningitis. Extra caution should be taken when traveling to cities such as New York or Los Angeles, which have higher incidences of the disease in the MSM community.

“Since we have seen an increase in the incidence of bacterial meningitis in this population we want to educate individuals about the importance of preventing the disease,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, Interim Deputy Secretary for Health. “Individuals in this population, who are traveling to other parts of the country where increases in cases have been reported, should talk to their health care provider.”

Meningitis is an inflammation of the delicate membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. One form of bacterial meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitidis (or meningococcus), is uncommon but potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. As many as 10-15% of cases lead to death, sometimes within 24 hours, and a significant number of those who contract the infection have serious complications.

Bacterial meningitis is transmitted person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. Close contact-such as kissing, sneezing or coughing, or living in close quarters with an infected person, facilitates the spread of the disease. Droplet spread, versus airborne spread generally takes place at a range of three feet or less, and prolonged contact generally is required for infection to occur.

The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, severe headache, and vomiting. Rash may also occur. The symptoms usually develop within three to seven days of exposure. Antibiotic treatment is effective, but it must be given without delay once meningococcal disease is suspected.

Early, aggressive treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications and death. Preventive oral antibiotic therapy for close contacts of confirmed cases is available and highly effective.

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