U.S. CDC investigates meningococcal disease outbreak in Florida

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Florida Department of Health are investigating “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.”

So far, at least 24 cases and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men have been reported in the country, the CDC said on Wednesday.

The CDC is recommending gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men get a meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) if they live in Florida, or talk with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated if they are traveling to Florida.

The CDC is also emphasizing the importance of routine MenACWY vaccination for people with HIV.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” said Jose R. Romero, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease can appear suddenly and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, or a dark purple rash, according to the CDC.

Symptoms can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly. People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions, according to the CDC.