HBHC to host 'Vax And The City' bar crawl to vaccinate gay men for meningitis

Thu. June 25, 2015 1:01 PM

Chicago, IL - In response to the current invasive meningococcal outbreak among men who have sex with men (MSM), on Thursday, June 25, Howard Brown Health Center staff will host the "Vax and the City" Bar Crawl at local bars along North Halsted in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood. 

From 6-9 pm, trained medical staff from HBHC and volunteers from Rush University College of Nursing will be administering free rapid meningococcal vaccinations to at-risk employees and patrons at the following bars: Roscoe's Tavern, 3356 N. Halsted; Progress Bar, 3359 N. Halsted; Replay, 3439 N. Halsted; and Hydrate Nightclub, 3458 N. Halsted. 

"As the Midwest's leader in LGBTQ health, Howard Brown Health Center has vaccinated more than 1,000 Chicagoans since June 3. But we recognize that we have more work to do in order to reach our organizational goal of vaccinating 4,000 patients and community members. One way to do that is to reach those who cannot come into our clinic and those who unaware of how serious IMD can be," said Magda Houlberg, HBHC's Chief Clinical Officer.

John Stryker, an HBHC medical provider and faculty member at Rush, who will be leading the bar crawl effort, emphasizes that the "Vax And The City" Bar Crawl will provide the community a vital service that meets them where they are. 

"We know that doing outreach in bars can be incredibly effective in reaching at-risk populations. Also, by having people be vaccinated publicly it allows for others to see how quick, painless and necessary the meningococcal vaccine is," he said.

Stryker added, "We also hope that by encouraging patrons and staff to Tweet about their experiences getting vaccinated with the hashtags #VaxAndTheCity and #VaccineBarCrawl, it will encourage more gay and bisexual men to do the same, not just for themselves, but for the health of our entire community."

IMD is a rare communicable bacterial disease that can cause meningitis, a severe disease of the brain and spinal cord, and other potentially fatal conditions. IMD is spread through intimate activities such as kissing and sexual contact or sharing drinks or cigarettes, smoking devices or marijuana. Common symptoms are fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other accompanying symptoms include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion.

Since June 3, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed six cases of IMD with a potential seventh case. While African-American men are disproportionately impacted by IMD, last week CDPH handed down new recommendations encouraging all MSM -- and those in their sexual networks -- to be vaccinated for meningitis as soon as possible.

"Meningitis can come swift and with a vengeance. About 10-15 percent of people with meningococcal disease die even with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Of those who recover, up to 20 percent suffer from serious aftereffects, such as permanent hearing loss, limb loss, or brain damage" Houlberg warns.

She added, "The best way to protect yourself is to roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated today."

For those who cannot attend "Vax And The City," HBHC will be providing free vaccinations at Pride events, Brown Elephant locations, and continuing to offer rapid, walk-in vaccinations at its two clinic locations at 3245 N. Halsted and 4025 N. Sheridan and at the Broadway Youth Center at 615 W. Wellington.

From a press release