As Los Angeles Pride festivities continue, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) reminds men who have sex with men (MSM) that they may be at increased risk for invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) and therefore need to be vaccinated. Public Health reports that there have been 28 outbreak-associated cases of meningococcal disease since March 2016 in Southern California.

 Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC
Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC

Meningococcal disease is a rare, but serious disease that can lead to swelling in the brain and spinal cord, loss of a limb, deafness, brain damage or even death.

Due to the current increases in cases among MSM, Public Health recommends meningococcal vaccination for all MSM, regardless of HIV status. Free meningococcal vaccinations are available at select locations. Vaccinations can also be obtained from your healthcare provider and in select pharmacies. Call your provider or pharmacy or visit for more information.

”The upcoming Pride festivities are a great time to remind those at risk for meningococcal disease to get vaccinated,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer. “Because this vaccine is highly effective against this disease, we want to make it as easily available as possible for those who need it.”

Public Health clinics provide vaccines for all people at higher-risk for IMD, regardless of health insurance status. Those who do not have a regular health care provider or health insurance that covers vaccines can call the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1 for referrals to providers offering vaccines at no-cost or a reduced cost.

Related: WorldPride Madrid 2017: European officials say STI risk is moderate to high

Limiting activities that spread saliva can also decrease the risk of infection. These include:

  • Don’t share drinks, utensils, food, or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t have multiple kissing partners.
  • Don’t share things you smoke, like cigarettes, e- cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs.

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Meningococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria known as Neisseria meningitis. The illness most people are familiar with is meningitis. It can be spread to others through the respiratory secretions of people who carry the bacteria without symptoms in their nose and throat. Meningococcal disease can start with flu-like symptoms, and progress to high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and rash. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.