Meningococcal disease outbreak in the United States kills a quarter of infected people: symptoms

  • Meningococcal outbreaks have killed a quarter of those infected this year, according to an official.
  • The bacteria that make people sick can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Vaccines provide the “best protection” against meningococcal disease, the CDC said.

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

Of the 48 cases of meningococcal disease reported in Florida in 2022, 12 people died, Dr. Ole Choi, director of the Florida Department of Health (FDH) in Pinellas County, told Insider.

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or cause an infection in the bloodstream.

The Miami Herald reported that Choi said the meningococcal disease outbreak worries him more than monkeypox, which has spread rapidly in the United States in recent months.

Meningococcal disease causes fever and a stiff neck

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

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

People get meningococcal disease from prolonged close contact with an infected person, such as when sharing drinks or kissing. According to the FDH, it is not as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and the bacteria are not spread during casual contact or from breathing the air where an infected person has been.

It’s rare for people in the United States to get sick from this bug, in part because meningococcal vaccines protect against four of the five most common types of Neisseria meningitidis, and are part of the routine vaccination schedule for teens in the United States.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease

Choi said on Wednesday that meningococcal disease in Florida mainly affected gay men, but was not “restricted to a particular community,” according to the Miami Herald. “Anyone is at risk,” he said.

The situation comes amid an outbreak of monkeypox that primarily affects gays, bisexuals and other men who have sex with men, but, as Insider Hilary Brooke previously reported, it is not a “homosexual disease.”

His concern is meningococcal disease “somewhat,” Choi said, which is more deadly than monkeypox, which hasn’t killed anyone in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on June 22, when there were 24 cases and 6 deaths, that the meningococcal outbreak in Florida was “one of the worst meningococcal disease outbreaks among gay and bisexual men in US history.”

The Miami Herald reports that Choi urged MSM and immunocompromised people to get a free vaccine in the state.

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

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