Responding to recent reports concerning the death of a gay West Hollywood man who contracted meningitis, San Francisco health officials this afternoon reported that there have not been similar cases reported in the city. Nor are they advising that men who have sex with men traveling to the Los Angeles area be vaccinated for the deadly disease.
According to a health advisory issued late this afternoon (Tuesday, April 16) there has not been a case of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) reported in the past 12 months among gay or bisexual men in San Francisco. It stressed, in bold letters, that there is “no local outbreak” of the deadly disease.
“The bottom line is there is no outbreak of meningitis in California in any group, including MSM or people living with HIV,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, the city’s health officer and the health department’s director of population health and prevention, in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter.
The advisory revises guidelines the health department had issued in December following the news that a cluster of cases had been found among gay men in New York City. At the time 12 cases of IMD involving MSM living in several boroughs other than Manhattan had been found.
It had been recommended that gay men traveling to New York City be vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis.
On March 6 the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that additional cases of IMD among MSM had been discovered in early 2013, bringing the total to 22 men infected. At the same time the department expanded its recommendations for meningococcal vaccination of MSM residing in NYC.
Today San Francisco health officials followed suit. Not only are gay and bisexual men planning a trip to New York advised to be vaccinated, so are male-to-female transgender individuals. Regardless of one’s HIV status, anyone who expects to come into close or intimate contact with MSM in New York City should receive a vaccination at least 7-10 days prior to their potential to be exposed to IMD.
IMD is transmitted by contact with spit, phlegm, mucus, or other fluids from the nose or mouth of someone who already has, or is in the process of developing, meningococcal disease, note health officials. Typically, transmission occurs from kissing, intimate or sexual contact, sneezing or coughing, living in a crowded space together, or sharing drinks, cigarettes or eating utensils with someone who is infected (who may not yet show signs of disease), states the advisory.
The disease garnered headlines in recent days (such as the report seen at right) and coverage on LGBT blogs due to the death of 33-year-old lawyer Brett Shaad. After falling into a coma last week, Shaad was taken off life support by his family late Saturday, April 15.
Initial reporting that Shaad attended the White Party in Palm Springs prior to becoming sick raised alarms in gay circles around the state. (According to one report, he did not go to the main dance event but was at a pool party at a hotel that weekend.)
Following the media coverage, Aragón said that San Francisco health officials “had a flurry of questions” about the incident but that “nothing has changed.”
Their advice remains that for MSM traveling to New York, they should see their doctor about getting vaccinated for IMB, said Aragón.
For more information, visit the health department’s Meningococcal Disease page.