SEATTLE — Public health officials in Seattle are not recommending gay men there be vaccinated against the strain of bacterial meningitis that infected 23 men in New York and killed seven, Komo 4 News, a regional ABC affiliate, reported last week.
Seattle & King County Public Health officials said there has only been one case of meningitis in the state so far this year and there is no evidence of increased infection. The United States Centers for Disease Control is also not recommending a mass vaccination for gay men. A West Hollywood man who died last month had a different strain of meningitis than the New York City residents, Komo 4 said.
Because the meningitis vaccine is somewhat expensive (about $150) and only lasts about two years, Seattle health officials said only those planning to visit New York and have sex there should be vaccinated. But those who want it for peace of mind, there’s no harm doctors told Komo 4 reporters.
Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, chief of epidemiology for Seattle & King County Public Health, said there’s been an “overreaction” to the New York outbreak.
“With HIV, the response was very slow,” he told Komo 4 staff. “People have this fear that this is going to be the next big epidemic but it’s not going to be.”
Meningitis is an infection of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord and can be spread through kissing, having sex, sharing food or utensils, drinking glasses, etc. It requires immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, hearing loss or death.