31 July 2016

Don't Look Now But More Diseases Infect Gays

Aside from HIV-AIDS, gay men are also susceptible to other rare and potentially fatal disease. Recently, it was discovered that meningitis popped up in cities nationwide over the past several years and public health officials noticed a trend: many of those infected were only gay men.

There’s no known medical reason why meningitis, which is transmitted through saliva, would spread more among gay and bisexual men. Yet New York, Chicago and now Southern California have experienced outbreaks disproportionately affecting that population.

"It is perplexing," said Dr. Rachel Civen, a medical epidemiologist at L.A. County’s Department of Public Health.

Of the 13 cases of meningitis this year in L.A. County — excluding Long Beach, which has its own health department — seven were gay men. There were only 12 meningitis cases in the county in all of 2015, one of which was a gay or bisexual man.

In Long Beach, there have been six meningitis cases this year, half of which were gay men. Last year there were no meningitis cases in the city, according to city officials.

Civen, who has tracked the county’s meningitis cases for a decade, said it was "pretty striking" that half or more of the cases in both jurisdictions were gay men.

Meningitis cases in L.A. and Orange counties are thought to be connected because lab testing showed that many patients were infected with the same strain of meningococcus, known as serotype C.

Federal, state and local public health officials are working together to investigate the current outbreak, which is estimated to have begun in February, with most cases in the past two months. A man in Orange County died after being infected this year, alarming many in the region’s gay community.