The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health are investigating “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history,” the CDC said Wednesday.
So far, 24 cases and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men have been reported.
The CDC says the outbreak is “primarily among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV. Recent data show that about half of the cases associated with this outbreak are among Hispanic men. This outbreak is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but has also affected some people who have traveled to Florida.”
Meningococcal disease includes meningitis — infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord — and bloodstream infections.
“Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be deadly,” the CDC said in its statement.
The bacteria is spread through sharing respiratory or throat secretions, such as saliva or spit. It normally takes close or lengthy contact, for example kissing or being close to someone who is coughing, to spread the bacteria.
Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea or vomiting or a dark purple rash, the CDC said. While they can first appear as flu like, they typically get worse very quickly. If someone has these symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately.