CDC Investigating ‘Large, Ongoing’ Outbreak of Rare Disease in Florida

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is currently investigating a “large, ongoing breakout” of meningococcal disease spreading among Florida residents.

A press release from the CDC said that the disease was spreading among homosexual males, including those with HIV.

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” said José R. Romero, M.D., Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “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 press release continued, “People can find a meningococcal vaccine by contacting their doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department. Insurance providers should pay for meningococcal vaccination for those whom it is recommended for during an outbreak. In Florida, anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak.”

Meningococcal disease is caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria and causes a bloodstream infection. This is also responsible for meningitis, which affects the brain and spinal cord.

“Meningococcal disease can affect anyone and can be deadly,” the CDC said in a statement. “Seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms of meningococcal disease. Symptoms can appear suddenly and include 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 disease can be spread by sharing bodily fluids, but requires “close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria.”

The outbreak has been active for several months in Leon County, Florida. A representative from the Florida Department of Health said the agency is “working to investigate these cases and to ensure that people who have come into close contact with the patients receive antibiotics as a precautionary measure against infection.”

Despite treatment, approximately 10 percent of people who contract the disease die, and up to 20 percent of survivors have long-term disabilities as a direct result of it, including brain damage, central nervous system damage, hearing loss and limb loss. 

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