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L.A. County Health Dept. Urges Gay And Bi Men To Get Vaccinated For Meningitis

You can get vaccinated at the LGBT Center in Hollywood (Photo via Facebook)
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Gay and bisexual men in the L.A. area are being encouraged by the county's health department to get vaccinated for meningitis following a recent outbreak of the sometimes deady disease. According to officials Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, there have been a total of 17 cases of meningococcal disease in Los Angeles County in 2016, the L.A. Times reports. Of those 17 cases, 12 have been reported in the last two months. Eight of the patients were gay or bisexual men, seven of whom came down with the illness in the last two months. By comparison, in 2015, there were only 12 reported cases of the disease in L.A. County and only one involved a patient who identified as a gay or bi male. However, in 2014, three young gay men, all in their 20s, died of the disease.

Guzenhauser said that these numbers are significantly higher than expected at this point in the year. A similar advisory was issued in Orange County last month, where where once patient recently died of the disease.

You can get vaccinated for meningitis for free by the L.A. County Health Department, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation or the Los Angeles LGBT Center. You do not need health insurance to qualify. You can find a complete list of places to get vaccinated here.

Robert Bolan, L.A. LGBT Center Director, said, "I want us to be busy. I want the doors to be bursting at the seams. I want people to come in and be vaccinated now. Please do this. It's important."

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According to the CDC, Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis and can lead to infections of the brain lining, spinal cord and bloodstream. Symptoms include a sudden fever, headache and stiff neck, though early symptoms can be similar to the flu, such as nausea and vomiting. Patients experiencing those symptoms should seek medical attention ASAP, as it can be deadly. It is spread via saliva, so common means of contracting the disease including kissing or sharing close quarters with someone who is infected. It can be treated with antibiotics, but vaccinations are advised.