SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is recommending that health care providers discuss the benefits of meningococcal vaccine with men who have sex with men (MSM) who are planning to visit Los Angeles County or other locations where they anticipate having close or intimate contact with multiple persons, including close contact at venues such as bars, clubs and parties. Vaccination is recommended at least two weeks prior to potential exposure.
Four MSM have been diagnosed with invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Los Angeles County this year. Three of the men were HIV-infected and three died. All four were infected with a vaccine-preventable serogroup of meningococcal bacteria.
Public health departments in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and San Francisco counties have issued guidance on meningococcal vaccination for MSM.
IMD clusters among MSM have also been reported in the past year in New York City and some European cities. MSM who are planning to travel to those locations should also consider vaccination, depending on their anticipated activities during travel.
Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted by respiratory secretions or aerosols through close or intimate contact. HIV-infection or exposure to tobacco, marijuana or illegal drugs increases the risk of IMD.
Even if diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics, invasive meningococcal disease can still result in death, loss of limbs or permanent brain damage. Symptoms of infection usually occur within three to seven days of exposure. Most persons who are exposed to the bacteria do not develop IMD, although they may carry the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat for a period of time and transmit it to others.