Sacramento, CA–California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today issued a health advisory related to an outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease occurring in Southern California, primarily among adult gay and bisexual men.
Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis and can cause meningitis and bloodstream infections (sepsis). Although rare, meningococcal disease is serious and potentially fatal.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, rash and generalized muscle pains. The time from exposure to the start of symptoms is typically just a few days. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.
Since the beginning of May, nine meningococcal disease cases have been identified in men living in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, most of whom were gay or bisexual men. One patient has died as a result of the infection. Six of the cases are known to be caused by a particular strain (serogroup C) of meningococcal bacteria and one other case is awaiting serogroup confirmation.
Several outbreaks and clusters of serogroup C meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men have been reported in New York City, Los Angeles County, and Chicago since 2014. Similar outbreaks have also been reported recently in Europe. Many of the men affected by these outbreaks were infected with HIV.
Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted through close personal contact and can be spread from person to person by small droplets of respiratory secretions from the nose and throat.