Mass Inoculations To Quell Killer Meningitis Outbreak In Chicago Gay Community

Sun. October 19, 2003 12:00 AM by

Chicago, IL - The Chicago health department today began a mass immunization of the gay community after an outbreak of the disease killed three people. Three others were also infected. One is reported in critical condition.

As first reported by on the weekend the outbreak has been traced to clubs in the North Side gay community. (story)

The Public Health Department has ordered 7,500 doses, at a cost of $50 per dose, and is prepared to get more, if necessary. (Vaccination Schedule) The shots will be offered free to gay and bisexual men who have had close social contacts on the North Side since Oct. 1. Such contacts include sex, kissing on the mouth, being sneezed at or coughed upon, and sharing items that have been in another person's mouth, such as cups, straws, forks, cigarettes and drug paraphernalia.

Bacterial meningitis can kill quickly if not treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include sudden fever, severe headache and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Meningitis can result in brain damage, hearing loss and learning disability.

Dr. John Wilhelm, the city's health commissioner, said laboratory test results confirmed that four of the six cases reported so far were from a bacterial strain for which there is an effective vaccine.

One of those who died was a bartender at at a popular gay bar on N. Halsted, and a second infected man was a patron at the same bar.

Meningitis outbreaks are not confined to the gay community and in a typical year in Chicago, between 20 and 45 people are infected. But, say health officials, clusters such as this one identified are rare.

by Steph Smith Newscenter
Chicago Bureau
©® 2003

Chicago Department of Public Health -

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.