The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, rather late to the game, on Friday afternoon urged gay men to get vaccinated for meningitis, noting the annual LA Pride events, which began hours later.
Some have seen the announcement as a warning of another outbreak of the potentially deadly disease. However, while there have been 28 cases reported since March 2016, recent data from the health department shows only two infections in March of this year, none in April and only one in May across Los Angeles County. February showed an uptick with four infections. There were no reports as of 5 p.m. Friday That data does not specify whether those infected were men or women or men who have sex with men. The data does not include Long Beach or Pasadena, which have their own health department.
The disease, communicated by saliva as easily as sharing a kiss or a glass of water with an infected person, has been a problem for the gay community, with the death in April 2013 of a young and gay real estate agent named Brett Shaad prompting gay men to get vaccinated to protect themselves. The L.A. Pride festival is expected to attract more than 100,000 people to West Hollywood this weekend. And the Sunday Resist March may bring many more.
”The upcoming Pride festivities are a great time to remind those at risk for meningococcal disease to get vaccinated,” Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer, said on the Friday. “Because this vaccine is highly effective against this disease, we want to make it as easily available as possible for those who need it.”
Meningitis can be spread to others through the respiratory secretions of people who carry the bacteria without symptoms in their nose and throat,” says a health department statement. “Meningococcal disease can start with flu-like symptoms, and progress to high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and rash. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.
A report in March from the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the L.A. LGBT Center and APLA Health noted that no more than 27% of gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated for meningitis.
The following places offer meningitis vaccines (many free of charge to those at high risk). Please call to confirm before you go:
The following locations offer free meningococcal vaccinations for all people at higher-risk (please call to confirm availability):
APLA Health – Gleicher/Chen Health Center 3743 S. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles 90016, 323-329-9900
APLA Health – Long Beach Health Center 1043 Elm Ave., Suite 302, Long Beach, CA 90813, 562-247-7740
Los Angeles LGBT Center 1625 N. Schrader Blvd, Los Angeles, 90028, 323-993-7500
AHF Wellness Center – West Adams 2146 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles 90018, 888-836-5946
AHF Wellness Center – Hollywood 1300 N. Vermont Ave, Suite 407, Los Angeles 90027, 866-339-2525
AHF Wellness Center – San Fernando Valley 4940 Van Nuys Blvd, Suite 200, Sherman Oaks 91403, 866-625-4559
Central Health Center 241 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles 90012, 213-240-8204
Hollywood/Wilshire Health Center 5205 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90038, 323-769-7800
North Hollywood Health Center 5300 Tujunga Avenue, North Hollywood 91601, 818-766-3982
Pomona Health Center 750 S. Park Avenue, Pomona 91766, 909-868-0235
Antelope Valley Health Center 335-B East Avenue K6, Lancaster 93535, 661-723-4526