Florida’s meningitis epidemic is much more serious than monkeypox, says the state’s top doctor

Monkeypox may be making headlines, but Florida health officials are alarmed by another more serious outbreak – meningococcal disease.

“Meningococcal disease, to some extent, concerns me more given the severity of the disease,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, statewide medical director for the Florida Department of Health, at a conference. press on Wednesday.

Florida’s meningitis epidemic, which primarily affected gay and bisexual men, was far more deadly than monkeypox, which resulted in no deaths in the United States, Choe said.

In contrast, 12 people died among Florida’s 48 confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in 2022 — a 25% fatality rate, Choe said. There were four cases in Miami-Dade and two in Broward from Jan. 1 to July 19, according to the health department.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which works with the state health department, said the two health agencies were investigating the Florida cases, which they called “one of the Worst Epidemics of Meningococcal Disease Among Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States”. the story.”

Florida had 27 cases of meningococcal disease in 2021, 17 cases in 2020 and 23 in 2019, compared to 48 recorded cases in mid-2022.

READ MORE: There’s a meningitis outbreak in Florida. Here’s who’s at risk and what you need to know

What causes meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and usually requires close contact to pass it from person to person, such as kissing or sharing food or drink. It may look like the flu at first, but quickly escalate to infect the brain and spinal cord, a condition known as meningitis. It can also enter the bloodstream.

The CDC, along with the health department, say the best way to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated, especially in people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

About half of Florida’s cases are in Hispanic men, and some people are living with HIV, the CDC said. Most of the cases were transmitted locally, although some involved people who traveled to Florida and then fell ill.

Although meningococcal disease primarily affects gay men, it is “not confined to any one community,” Choe said. “It’s a communicable disease, and everyone is susceptible.”

Vaccination is required

High-risk patients should get the meningitis vaccine, which is readily available, Choe said. The vaccine is recommended for men who have sex with men and those who are immunocompromised.

Anyone who has been exposed to meningococcal disease or has a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and red and purple rashes should seek medical attention immediately. , Choe said. The disease can be treated – and prevented – with IV antibiotics.

High-risk patients should immediately register for vaccinations, said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health.

“We need to make sure the public understands…that meningococcal disease is a serious threat among these two,” he said.

Florida has also seen an increase in monkeypox cases. As of Tuesday, the state had 208 cases of monkeypox, up from 73 cases about two weeks ago. Most cases are in South Florida, 110 in Broward and 56 in Miami-Dade as of Tuesday.

Every monkeypox vaccine in Florida is given, Redfern said. All appointments are being filled according to the current supply – until the state receives an additional 10,700 doses.

Leave a Comment