Health Advisory Update: New York City Meningitis Cases Among Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) Remain a Concern; Cases in Los Angeles County Not Connected

This post was updated on April 23, 2013

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has issued a health alert in response to a recent outbreak of meningococcal meningitis among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the New York City area. In short, there were twelve cases of this potentially deadly disease among gay or bisexual men in 2012 in New York City, and there continue to be cases in 2013. Meningococcal meningitis is spread by close contact—this includes kissing and other sexual activity, but also sharing utensils or drinking glasses or cigarettes. There have been no cases of meningococcal meningitis among MSM in the Boston area.

The New York City outbreak has been linked to parties, online websites or apps that men used to find other men for “close or intimate sexual contact,” according to health officials. But for more than half of the men sickened by meningitis, there was no evidence that the men had used any of these means to encounter other men, according to public health officials.

After four cases of meningococcal disease among gay men were reported in Los Angeles county in recent months, there were concerns that the New York City outbreak had spread, but public health officials in Los Angeles and New York say the strains are not connected.

BPHC’s current recommendation is for any MSM—but especially any MSM who are HIV positive—who travel frequently to NYC to consider getting vaccinated.

  • For HIV positive MSM age 55 years or under, the recommendation is to receive two meningococcal meningitis vaccines spaced about eight weeks apart.
  • For HIV positive MSM age 56 years or over, only one meningococcal meningitis vaccine is needed.
  • For HIV negative MSM, only one meningococcal meningitis vaccine is needed

If you are a Fenway patient and have a medical appointment scheduled this spring or summer, please ask for the meningococcal meningitis vaccine during your medical appointment.

If you do not have a medical appointment scheduled and you meet the BPHC recommendations shown in bold red letters above, then call our appointment line at 617.927.6000 to schedule a vaccination appointment. Please consider wearing a short-sleeve shirt your vaccination appointment, so that our nursing staff can easily access your shoulder.

The following links provide great resources regarding meningococcal meningitis:

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