“We don't want to panic people,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran. “But we learned 30 years ago the consequences of delay in the response to AIDS. We are sounding the alarm that sexually active gay men need to be aware that we have a strain of meningitis that is deadly on our hands,” continued Duran.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial meningitis is usually severe. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.
Infectious diseases such as meningococcal infection tend to spread more quickly where larger groups of people gather together. College students living in dormitories and military personnel are at increased risk for meningococcal meningitis as well as people with weakened immune systems such as those living with HIV/AIDS.
The germs that cause bacterial meningitis can be contagious. Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing). Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
Meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It will often have other symptoms which include:
- Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Altered mental status (confusion)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been alerted about a Los Angeles County case of meningococcal infection. Tests are being conducted to determine the imprint of this strain, which is not a new one. There may be similarities to an especially deadly strain of meningococcal infection found recently in New York that has resulted in twenty-two cases, including seven fatalities since 2010. The outbreak in New York City involved a strain circulating among men who have sex with men and may be transmitted during intimate encounters including sex.
For more information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Questions and Answers about Bacterial Meningitis [PDF]
Provided by the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services Public Health