US meningococcal disease outbreak kills infected neighborhood: Symptoms

  • A meningococcal epidemic has killed a quarter of those infected this year, an official says.
  • The bacteria that makes people sick can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Vaccines offer the “best protection” against meningococcal disease, the CDC said.

A meningococcal disease outbreak in Florida has killed a quarter of those infected this year, a health official said.

Twelve people have died among the 48 cases of meningococcal disease reported in Florida in 2022, Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health (FDH) in Pinellas County, told Insider.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium, called Neisseria meningitidis, which can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or cause a blood infection.

Choe said the meningococcal disease epidemic worries him more than monkeypox, which has spread rapidly in the United States in recent months, the Miami Herald reported.

Meningococcal disease causes fever and stiff neck

The most common symptoms of meningococcal disease are high fever, headache, and stiff neck, but the disease can also cause a characteristic dark purple rash, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Choe, according to the Miami Herald, have urged anyone exposed to meningococcal disease or showing symptoms to seek immediate medical attention, as the disease can be treated with antibiotics.

People get meningococcal disease from prolonged close contact with an infected person, such as sharing a drink or kissing. According to the HDD, it is not as contagious as a cold or the flu, and the bacteria is not spread through casual contact or by breathing the air where an infected person has been.

In the United States, it is rare for people to get sick from this virus, in part because meningococcal vaccines protect against four of the five most common types of Neisseria meningitidis and are part of the routine immunization schedule for American teenagers.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease

Choe said Wednesday that in Florida, meningococcal disease primarily affects gay men, but is not “restricted to any particular community,” according to the Miami Herald. “Everyone is susceptible,” he said.

The situation comes amid an outbreak of monkeypox that primarily affects gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, but, as Insider’s Hilary Brueck previously reported, it’s not a “gay disease”.

Choe said meningococcal disease concerns him more “to some extent” and is more deadly than monkeypox, which hasn’t killed anyone in the United States.

The CDC said on June 22, when there were 24 cases and 6 deaths, the meningococcal outbreak in Florida was “one of the worst meningococcal disease outbreaks in gay and bisexual men in state history. -United”.

Choe urged men who have sex with men and immunocompromised people to get the vaccine, which is freely available in the state, the Miami Herald reported.

Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement in June, “Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious disease, which can quickly become fatal.”

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