Get Vaccinated Against Meningitis – Update

by Mikael Häggström from Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Following the show on Thursday, when I talked with Rob Lake of AFAO about the growing incidence of meningitis in New York among men who have sex with men, further reports of the disease have appeared.  The travel advisory issued by the Australian Society for HIV Medicine, which I posted here, predates the latest info.

I’ll repeat the most important part from that advisory: if you have not been vaccinated you can become ill very suddenly and the window for treatment is very short:

 It may take up to seven days for the signs of meningococcal disease to appear. Signs and symptoms can appear very quickly, and people with meningococcal disease can get much worse within a few hours. You know your family and best friends better than anybody else. If you or someone close to you has some of these signs, and appears to you to be much sicker than usual, seek medical attention from a doctor or nearest hospital.

• Fever

• Headache

• General malaise

• Neck stiffness

• Discomfort when looking at bright lights (photophobia)

• Vomiting and/or diarrhoea

• Muscles aches

• Painful or swollen joints and/or difficulty walking

• Moaning, unintelligible speech

• Drowsiness

• Confusion

• Collapse

• Rash of red-purple pinprick spots or larger bruises

On Thursday the outbreak was, as far as we knew, confined to New York. But now the Los Angeles gay community has been warned, after a 33yr old lawyer apparently contracted the infection at the White Party, and died. It’s not clear at this stage if this latest incident is related to the New York outbreak.

Some cool-headed facts and info about this disease and specifically about this outbreak, and why it has the scientists worried, can be found here. The author has spoken to experts at the Centre for Disease Control. It does seem to be caused by a more virulent strain of meningococcal bacteria, which kills 1 in 3 who catch it, as against the more normal 1 in 5.

If I may crudely summarise, if you plan on swapping spit with any gay Americans any time soon, you should consider meningitis vaccination.

UPDATE: Experts now say it’s ‘not an epidemic.’

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)