June 3, 2015

Chicago Department of Public Health Urges Men Who Have Sex With Men to Get Vaccinated for Invasive Meningococcal Disease

Small Outbreak of Serious Disease Identified

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) urges sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV and MSM who have anonymous sex partners or use ‘hook up’ apps to identify sexual partners to get vaccinated to prevent Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD). CDPH and the CDC have recently identified a small outbreak of the rare but severe infection among MSM in Chicago, which can be deadly if left untreated. Since reported, CDPH has been closely monitoring each case, has determined that the outbreak is isolated to a specific subpopulation and is working with community partners to spread the word and make vaccines available to target groups and protect the health of all of Chicago residents.

CDPH recommends MSM who are HIV positive or MSM who have anonymous sex partners contact their doctor or pharmacist to request the vaccine, which will protect them from infection. The vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccine is also available at no cost at CDPH clinics and partner sites, where co-pays may apply. Click here for a full list of CDPH and partner sites.

“Meningococcal disease is very serious but preventable,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “Vaccines are available and we urge anyone who may be at risk to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis. This includes bloodstream infections and meningitis. Meningococcal disease can cause symptoms including fever, headache and a stiff neck. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status or confusion. If you or your partner is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Though less contagious than a common cold, the disease spreads through prolonged, close contact with saliva that can include intimate kissing, sexual contact, sharing drinks or sharing marijuana and cigarettes. If you are a sexually active MSM in Chicago who is living with HIV or if you have had intimate or sexual contact with other men via smart phone social apps, you may be at risk for the disease. If you meet the above criteria, see your doctor or pharmacist to request a vaccine. If you are uninsured, visit www.cityofchicago.org/Health or call 311 to find a CDPH clinic or partner site.

In addition to receiving the vaccination, you can also protect yourself from the disease by frequent hand washing, refraining from sharing drinks or smoking devices and by practicing safer sex.

As part of the Health Department’s efforts to educate and inform the public, CDPH has provided education materials to medical providers across Chicago and is working with local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organizations to ensure the community has access to information. CDPH has contacted family members and close friends of individuals infected to provide preventative antibiotics and also set up a phone bank for healthcare providers to answer questions regarding vaccine distribution. For more information on how to protect yourself, download a CDPH fact sheet or palm card available at www.cityofchicago.org/Health.

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