In a follow-up to a report nearly two weeks ago, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) met with local healthcare providers and LGBT organizations last week as part of their ongoing efforts to stop the spread of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). The meeting follows a confirmed fifth IMD case in DuPage County – the first in the Chicago suburbs. This case brings the total number affiliated with the outbreak to five, including one fatality.

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

IMD causes meningitis and can be deadly if untreated.  In response to the outbreak, CDPH and the CDC recommend MSM in Chicago who have anonymous sex partners, use hook-up apps to meet partners or are HIV positive to get vaccinated, which will protect them from infection. CDPH also notes that African American MSM are at an increased risk based on previous cases.

“This disease can kill, but vaccines are available,” said Julie Morita, MD, Commissioner, CDPH. “Anyone at risk must get vaccinated to protect themselves and the community. By working with our community partners we can stop this disease before any more lives are claimed.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health has joined in CDPH efforts to stop the spread of the disease and notify all residents of the area about potential risks.

“Individuals who may be at risk for meningitis in connection with this outbreak may not seek treatment because of the stigma that some people have toward men who have sex with men or because they lack access to care,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  “It is important we reach out to these individuals to encourage them to seek treatment, not only for their own health, but to help stop the spread of this disease and reduce the risk to others.”

Meningitis vaccine drive were held throughout the weekend.

IMD can cause symptoms including fever, headache and a stiff neck. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status or confusion. If you experience these symptoms, please consult a medical provider immediately. The disease spreads through prolonged, close contact with saliva that can include intimate kissing, sexual contact, sharing drinks or sharing marijuana and cigarettes.