Photo by Paulo Murillo —
The Los Angeles LGBT Center teamed up with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the County Department of Health Services, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center to urge gay/bisexual men and transgender people living in Los Angeles County to get vaccinated for invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). IMD is potentially deadly and county health officials say that gay/bisexual men represent a disproportionate number of the 17 cases reported this year.
According to reports, eight of the 17 people infected with IMD in the county of Los Angeles (including Long Beach)
self-identify as gay or bisexual men. Throughout 2015 only 12 people were diagnosed with IMD and just one of them identified as gay or bisexual, but two years ago county health officials raised the alarm regarding the disproportionate risk of IMD infection among gay/bisexual men in Los Angeles following the death of three gay men.
“The recent outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease in the Los Angeles area reminds us that, even though the number of cases is still small, gay and bisexual men continue to be infected at a higher rate than the general population. HIV infected individuals also appear to be at higher risk,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center Medical Director Robert Bolan. “To clear up any ambiguity, we think the message should be simple. If you are a gay or bisexual man or a transgender individual, you should receive the meningococcal vaccination. HIV uninfected individuals only need a single dose of the vaccine.”
The Center is providing free vaccinations, by appointment, at its McDonald/Wright Building at 1625 N. Schrader Blvd in Hollywood. Clients who have a regularly scheduled appointment with their primary care physician at the Center, or who are getting an HIV test at the McDonald/Wright Building, will be offered the vaccine during their visit. To schedule a vaccination appointment, call 323-993-7500.
Additional sites offering the vaccine are listed on the county health department’s website at:
http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/Docs/meningitisclinics.pdf. Three of the most popular mobile apps used by gay/bisexual men to meet other men—Grindr, Scruff, and Hornet—have committed to collaborating with the Center to boost awareness of the risk of IMD infection to their users in Los Angeles and to promote vaccinations.
Meningitis can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing drink containers, cigarettes, marijuana joints, eating utensils or toothbrushes. Simply put, people who are swapping spit are at increased risk. HIV-positive people are particularly at-risk.
DPH reports that IMD is a sporadic and uncommon bacterial infection of the blood or the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can affect the entire body. The infection can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and even death. The bacteria can be spread by very close exposure to sneezing and coughing or direct contact with saliva or nose mucus.
Disease symptoms may include: high fever, stiff neck, altered mental status, skin rash, severe headache, low blood pressure, aversion to bright lights, and generalized muscle pains. Symptoms usually occur within 5 days of the exposure, but may occur up to 10 days after exposure. IMD progresses rapidly, so immediate diagnosis and treatment is imperative. If you are symptomatic, you should see your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room immediately.
For more information regarding invasive meningococcal disease and vaccination, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html.