Health officials in Philadelphia and Delaware are asking gay men — and men who have sex with men — to speak with their doctor and consider a vaccine against bacterial meningitis especially if they have partners in New York or spend time in that city.
An outbreak in New York garnered headlines in recent months, and seven men there died after contracting the illness. So far, health officials — in Philadelphia and Delaware — say they’ve seen no uptick locally.
“So for folks who don’t travel frequently to New York and they are just in Philadelphia, there’s isn’t a compelling reason to get the vaccine,” said Robert Winn, medical director the Mazzoni Center, a health clinic that serves that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Winn says about 35 patients have come in asking for the vaccine.
“It’s actually recommended for any college student going off to college to live in the dorms, of any gender, so that’s been a recommendation for a long time,” Winn said. “What we are finding is there are a lot of gay men who come in, they want the vaccine, they don’t realize they already had it when they went off to college.”
Meningitis bacteria spread through close — but not casual — contact, said Martin Luta, Delaware’s chief of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases.
“For example, you don’t get it by sitting in a room where somebody with meningitis has just passed through,” Luta said. “Normally it has to be very close contact, like kissing or using the same utensils that have not been washed.”
Separately, this spring, the New Jersey Department of Health issued a notice about a school-based meningitis outbreak at Princeton University. Four cases were identified.