MELBOURNE, Australia — Health authorities here are offering a free meningococcal vaccine after eight men were struck down with the disease’s C-strain since May, an Australian branch of ABC News reports.
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 told ABC.
Meningococcal disease is uncommon but it can be deadly. Ten percent of cases are fatal within 24-48 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,” Sutton told ABC.
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 doctor as of this week, ABC reports.
As of June, 29 people in Los Angeles County had been diagnosed with meningitis. Los Angeles County health officials were urging vaccines for Pride month, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’ appears this is the same strain affecting Australia. In the California cases, men who have sex with men were disproportionately affected, health officials said.
Other outbreaks have been reported in gay communities in Chicago, New York, Berlin, Paris and Toronto in the last decade.