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Gay & Bisexual Men Urged To Get Vaccinated After Deadly Meningitis Outbreak

A person receiving a vaccination (Photo by TheYok via Shutterstock)
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After eight people have been diagnosed meningitis in L.A. County this year, officials on Wednesday urged men who have sex with men (whether they identify as gay or bisexual) to get vaccinated.

Of the group, three have died from the bacterial infection, according to L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavky's website. The L.A. County Dept. of Health released a statement that four were reported to be men who had sex with men (MSM), and three of them were HIV positive. Three of the men lived or hung out in West Hollywood or North Hollywood.

However, officials want all men who are intimate with multiple male partners or even ones who share things like cigarettes to get vaccinated. According to the statement:

"All HIV-positive MSM and all MSM, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, or who seek partners through the use of digital applications, particularly those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, should visit their health provider to be vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer.
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Meningitis, which is also referred to as invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a bacterial infection of the blood or lining of the brain and spinal cord, according to the department. In the worst-case scenarios, it can cause brain damage, hearing loss or even death. A person infected might get symptoms of a stiff neck, a high fever or severe headache.

It can even be spread by close sneezing or coughing. However, it's not as contagious as the flu. But officials are warning folks that it can spread through close contact like sharing drinks, kissing, or staying in group settings like dorms for long periods of time.

The Dept. of Public Health is offering free vaccinations to those at risk of meningitis who don't have health insurance starting today. More info can be found here.