Florida has reported 24 cases and six deaths of meningococcal disease, spurring an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues its collaboration with the Florida Department of Health to investigate one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history," the CDC announced in a statement Wednesday.
The CDC is urging gay and bisexual men in Florida to get vaccinated, along with warning those traveling to Florida.
"Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly," Dr. José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, wrote in a statement.
"Because of the outbreak in Florida, and the number of Pride events being held across the state in coming weeks, it's important that gay and bisexual men who live in Florida get vaccinated, and those traveling to Florida talk to their healthcare provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine."
The guidance suggests insurance providers should cover the cost of the vaccine for anyone outside of Florida whose healthcare provider recommends vaccination. Florida residents can get a free MenACWY vaccine at any county health department during the outbreak, according to the CDC.
Those infected with meningococcal disease should seek medical attention immediately if they experience the following symptoms: high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, or a dark purple rash.
"Symptoms can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly," the CDC release read. "People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria."
Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and is deadly, potentially infecting the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream.
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