A health advisory has been issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Office Dr. Karen Smith related to an outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease occurring in Southern California, primarily among adult gay and bisexual men.

Accordingly, Desert AIDS Project (D.A.P.) will offer a free meningococcal vaccine to anyone requesting one at their medical clinic at 1695 N. Sunrise Way in Palm Springs.

“When we saw a similar outbreak in 2014, just prior to The White Party which attracts primarily gay men, we knew that we needed to protect both our local community and those visiting,” said David Brinkman, CEO of D.A.P. “We’re doing the same now.”

Since the beginning of May, nine meningococcal disease cases have been identified in men living in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, most of whom were gay or bisexual men. Although rare, meningococcal disease is serious and potentially fatal – and in one of these nine cases, the patient has died as a result of the infection.

Six of the cases are known to be caused by a particular strain (serogroup C) of meningococcal bacteria and one other case is awaiting serogroup confirmation. Several outbreaks and clusters of serogroup C meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men have been reported in New York City, Los Angeles County, and Chicago since 2014. Similar outbreaks have also been reported recently in Europe. Many of the men affected by these outbreaks were infected with HIV.

HIV-infected people are at increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease. Because of this increased risk, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend this week that all HIV-infected persons aged two months and older be routinely vaccinated with the meningococcal vaccine that protects against serogroups A, C, W, and Y disease (MenACWY.)

Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted through close personal contact and can be spread from person to person by small droplets of respiratory secretions from the nose and throat. Gay and bisexual men may be at increased risk of meningococcal disease if they have close or intimate contact with multiple partners, regularly visit crowded venues such as bars and parties, or smoke cigarettes, marijuana, or illegal drugs. State health officials urge all HIV-infected persons and gay and bisexual men who may be at increased risk for meningococcal disease to consider receiving MenACWY.
All HIV-infected adults should receive two doses of MenACWY. Gay and bisexual men who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and are not HIV-infected should receive one dose of MenACWY vaccine. Those who have not been tested for HIV within the last year should be offered an HIV test along with the vaccination.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, rash, and generalized muscle pains. The time from exposure to the start of symptoms is typically just a few days. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

Those wishing to receive the meningitis vaccine should call Desert AIDS Project for an appointment at 760-323-2118. D.A.P. also offers testing and treatment for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), as well as PrEP and PEP education and treatment for those who want help in remaining HIV-negative at The DOCK, a sexual health clinic located within D.A.P.