The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday issued a health alert about an outbreak of the meningococcal disease in Florida which mainly is affecting gay and bisexual men.

The CDC strongly suggested gay men in the state to take a MenACWY vaccine, especially if they have HIV. Those who took the vaccine five years ago are recommended to get a booster shot. 

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“In response to an ongoing outbreak of meningococcal disease in Florida, state health officials are recommending all gay and bisexual men living in the state get vaccinated with one dose of a MenACWY vaccine to help protect against meningococcal disease,” the CDC said.

“Florida health officials are also emphasizing the importance of routine vaccination against meningococcal disease for people with HIV. For the best protection, people with HIV should make sure they have gotten their 2-dose primary series of a MenACWY vaccine and are up to date with booster doses.”

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What’s the cause of worry:

Meningococcal disease is serious and caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. These bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu, but can spread through close contact over a period of time or direct contact such as kissing or sharing drinks.

Early symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, confusion, and rash. A reddish or purple skin rash (known as petechiae) is a very important sign to watch for.

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The CDC said that while the outbreak is mostly affecting people living in Florida, it also has “affected some people who have traveled to Florida. The two most common types of meningococcal infections are meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and bloodstream infection, both of which can quickly become deadly.”

Meningococcal meningitis can be fatal or cause great harm without prompt treatment. The risk for meningococcal meningitis increases if one is exposed to the bacterium that caused it.