Is there an elevated risk of bacterial meningitis for gay men, based on recent cases discussed in the media?
The overwhelming majority of meningococcal meningitis cases in the United States are sporadic and isolatedonly a small percentage of cases are linked to an outbreak. However, an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in New York has been tracked since 2010, with 22 cases identified through April 2013, leading to seven deaths. These individuals were affected at 60 times the incidence rate, compared to that expected in the overall population.
Fifty-five (55) percent of the cases were among HIV-positive individuals, and African Americans were disproportionately affected. The individuals shared risk factors that included meeting sex partners through social media. For this reason, the New York City Department of Health has issued advisories recommending that all sexually active gay and other MSM be vaccinated.
Since that time, other health departments, including San Francisco’s, have advised vaccinations for those gay men traveling to New York City who might be sexually active while there. On April 13, 2013, a West Hollywood man died of meningococcal meningitis, raising concern that a similar pattern of illness might be observed in the Los Angeles area.
And the jokes could write themselves.