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Los Angeles County Health Agency Failed to Report Meningococcal Deaths of 3 Men

April 4, 2014

This article was reported by Los Angeles Daily News.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health initially did not disclose the deaths of three people who had invasive meningococcal disease in 2014, but did issue new vaccine recommendations on April 2 for men who have sex with men (MSM). Two of the men who died were HIV positive. The health department has recorded eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease so far this year.

Michael Weinstein, executive director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), believed that the decision to withhold information about the deaths indicated a lack of urgency in the public health department. Last year, AHF initiated a ballot measure to create a separate public health department for the city of Los Angeles, stating that the county's health department was too large. Weinstein noted that the county health department had not supported AHF's successful ballot measure that required condom use in adult film production. A Los Angeles Supreme Court judge ruled that the proposal to create a new city health department conflicted with state law for health care.

The Department of Public Health denied that it erred in not releasing notice of the meningococcal deaths immediately. Instead, the department sent community partners new meningococcal vaccine recommendations that included a summary of MSM deaths since October 1, 2012, and the total number of deaths. One-third of 32 bacterial meningitis deaths reported since October 2012 occurred among MSM.

Dr. Robert Bolan, medical director for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, stated that the health department had taken the right steps in focusing on the population that could benefit most from vaccination. AHF will offer free meningitis vaccinations at its Hollywood Wellness Center at 1300 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles. Visit https://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ for a listing of Los Angeles County clinics.

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