The Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health (Public Health) and Health Services are partnering with community providers caring for gay/bisexual men, or men who have sex with men (MSM), and HIV infected populations to increase vaccinations for Invasive Meningococcal Disease.

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

“Public Health continues to work every day to protect health and stop the spread of this fatal disease,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease. The County is committed to developing a comprehensive vaccination campaign to protect all persons who are at risk.”

During the months of May and June, a disproportionate number of cases have occurred among self-identified MSM within LA County. To protect public health and prevent the future spread of Invasive Meningococcal Disease, it is important to encourage vaccination and take other preventive measures that limit activities that spread saliva.

“The County is closely monitoring and taking every step to prevent the spread of Meningococcal Disease,” said LA County Health Agency Director Mitchell Katz, MD. “It is important to get educated and vaccinated, especially men who have sex with men and persons who are HIV infected. A number of public and private clinics and pharmacies, including health centers run by the L.A. County Departments of Public Health and Health Services, are offering vaccine for free or low-cost.”

Since the beginning of the year, eight of the 17 people infected with Invasive Meningococcal Disease in the County of Los Angeles (including Long Beach) are self- identified gay or bisexual men.

“The recent outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease in Los Angeles are reminds us that, even though the number of cases is still small, gay and bisexual men continue to be infected at a higher rate than the general population,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center Medical Director Robert Bolan. “HIV infected individuals also appear to be at higher risk. To clear up any ambiguity, we think the message should be simple. If you are a gay or bisexual man or a transgender individual, you should receive the meningococcal vaccination. HIV uninfected individuals only need a single dose of the vaccine.”

The meningococcal vaccination is recommended for a number of groups who are at increased risk for the disease, including:

  • All HIV-infected people.
  • All gay/MSM, regardless of HIV status, who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners or who seek partners through digital apps, particularly those who share cigarettes/marijuana or use illegal drugs.

Free meningococcal vaccinations are available for all people at higher-risk at health centers throughout the county.

Vaccinations can also be obtained from other healthcare providers and in select pharmacies. Call your provider or your pharmacy to for more information. 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.

Public Health continues working closely with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and neighboring health departments as well as the CDC to promote education and awareness, and to increase the ease and availability of vaccination.