October 12, 2012
An outbreak of contagious bacterial meningitis unrelated to the larger fungal version spreading across the United States is causing some New York City men to go clinics for vaccines. This smaller outbreak of the bacterial version of the disease has only struck local men who are HIV-positive -- 12 this year, including five in the last month. One man has died, and another was in critical condition, but appears to be recovering.
Health authorities advise HIV-positive men to get vaccinated against bacterial meningitis, if they have had intimate contact with new acquaintances that they have met through the Internet, at bars or parties, or through digital apps in recent weeks. The New York City Health Department estimates approximately 10,000 men fit these criteria.
Dr. Gal Mayer, the medical director at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in the Chelsea neighborhood, said the clinic has received about 20 calls a day from people about meningitis. Many of them are confused between the two outbreaks, and some of them have reported symptoms. Mayer stated that "There's a lot of clarification that we have to do." Those with symptoms have been directed to hospital emergency rooms, but none of their cases have been confirmed as meningitis. Meningitis can be deadly if not detected and treated early with intravenous antibiotics. The steroid-related meningitis has no vaccine and is not contagious.