A MAJOR bacteria outbreak has sparked an urgent warning after six deaths and two dozen more cases have been reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in a statement on Wednesday that there have been at least 24 meningococcal disease cases and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men.
The CDC has labeled the outbreak in Florida as "one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in US history," according to a press release from the national public health agency.
Now, the community of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, are being urged by the CDC to get a MenACWY vaccine if they live in Florida.
The state has an ongoing outbreak of serogroup C meningococcal disease.
They also recommend anyone in the risk group speak with a healthcare provider about whether they should get the vaccine before traveling to the state.
Additionally, the MenACWY vaccination is often recommended for anyone living in the US with HIV.
José R. Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement: "Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly.
"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."
Officials are also suggesting college and university students in Leon County, Florida, consider getting a MenB vaccine series in response to a cluster of serogroup B meningococcal disease cases.
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The CDC warns that meningococcal disease "can affect anyone and can be deadly and includes infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream."
Anyone experiencing meningococcal symptoms, which show up suddenly, should seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms could be high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck or a dark purple rash.
"Symptoms can first appear as a flu-like illness, but typically worsen very quickly," the CDC explains.
" People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit)."
Meningococcal disease is spread through close or lengthy contact.
An example of how it can be spread is through kissing or being near a person who is coughing.
Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics and is best to be treated as soon as symptoms start, the CDC says, noting that "antibiotics help reduce the risk of dying."
"Even with antibiotic treatment, 10 to 15 in 100 people with meningococcal disease will die," the CDC explains.
"Up to 1 in 5 survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as: Loss of limb(s), Deafness, Nervous system problems, and Brain damage."