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Gay and bisexual men urged to vaccinate against meningococcal after Melbourne outbreak

Gay men are being urged to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease after a sudden outbreak in Melbourne.

Health authorities are offering a free vaccine from today after eight men were struck down with the disease's C-strain since May.

Victoria's deputy chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said almost all the patients identified as gay or bisexual.

"Eight doesn't sound like a big number, but if this were to affect the whole of Melbourne at the same rate as it's affected men who have sex with men, we'd be talking about a couple of hundred cases over a few months," he said.

Meningococcal disease is uncommon but it can be deadly.

Ten per cent of cases are fatal within 24 to 48 hours of diagnosis.

The bacteria lives in the throat and nose and is passed on through close and prolonged contact.

"That includes intimate kissing and we think that's what's driving transmission in this outbreak," Dr Sutton said.

Patients in the high-risk group who come down with a high fever, headache and light sensitivity should see their doctor or go to hospital.

Men can get the vaccine from their local GP as of today.


Los Angeles Health Warning for Men who have sex with Men

meningitis laBacterial meningitis has killed three men who have sex with men (MSM) in Los Angeles, public health officials said Thursday, while five others have tested positive for invasive meningococcal disease.

Health officials are urging gay men who have HIV or multiple partners and men who have sex with men to get vaccinated against the invasive disease.

Meningococcal disease is a deadly infection that can spread through saliva or mucus from activities such as kissing, coughing, sharing drinks or cigarettes, or lengthy contact with an infected person.

"All HIV-positive MSM and all MSM, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, or who seek partners through the use of digital applications, particularly those who share cigarettes, marijuana or use illegal drugs, should visit their health provider to be vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease," Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of public health at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

The health department is offering free vaccinations are being offered to those without health insurance.

The department however said the three men who died didn't have any direct contact with each other. The disease still is considered rare and sporadic and the department is shying away from declaring any outbreak in the gay community, authorities said.

Four of the eight people who came down with the illness had sex with other men and three were HIV positive. The three who died in February and March were 27 or 28 years old and two were HIV positive, according to the department.

Of the other five people who fell ill, four are out of the hospital and one is hospitalized but recovering.

Disease symptoms typically include high fever, stiff neck, altered mental status, skin rash, severe headache, low blood pressure, aversion to bright lights and generalized muscle pains. Onset may occur within five to 10 days after exposure, but the disease progresses rapidly, so immediate diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics is essential.

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