L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center issues meningitis alert

Sun. April 14, 2013 7:33 AM by GoPride.com News Staff

Los Angeles, CA - Los Angeles County health officials have reported a single case of bacterial meningitis in a man, known to be a gay resident of West Hollywood, who has reportedly died from it Friday. In New York City there is an outbreak of bacterial meningitis among gay men that has resulted in 22 infections and seven deaths since 2010. It's not known whether the strain that infected the West Hollywood resident is the same as the New York strain.

"It's important to note that this is just one case, but the Center has called on the L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) to conduct a rapid and thorough investigation," said Center Director of Medical Services Dr. Bob Bolan, "and we've been told they have already begun tracking those who may have been exposed by the person who died today."

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection disease that causes the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. As many as 1 in 5 people who develop this meningitis have serious complications, including brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities and death. If caught early, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

"Meningococcal meningitis can be prevented by a vaccine that is available at some local pharmacies and clinics. It is covered by some insurance plans or available for purchase at a cost of approximately $125," said Bolan. "We've asked DPH to give supplies of the vaccine to community clinics like the Center's so we can vaccinate those who want it and who are uninsured and can't afford it. We want to prevent a public health concern from potentially becoming a public health crisis."

Meningitis can be spread through close contact with someone who is infected, especially through coughing, sneezing, and intimate contact like kissing. Symptoms usually develop over seven to ten days and may include fever, severe headaches and a stiff neck as well as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, confusion or decreased level of consciousness. People who have a compromised immune system, including those who are HIV-positive, may be at greater risk of infection. Those who experience symptoms and believe they may have been infected should call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.

The Center asks the community to stay informed and is sharing, via its website (www.lagaycenter.org), a page of "Frequently Asked Questions" about the situation and bacterial meningitis. It will be updated as new information becomes available.