NYC Health Officials Worried Meningitis Outbreak Could Claim Many Lives; Some Gay Men Urged to Vaccinate

A unique strain of bacterial meningitis has New York City health officials worried and they are urging “men, regardless of H.I.V. status, who regularly have intimate contact with other men through a Web site, digital application or at a bar or party," to get vaccinated, the NYT reports:

MeningitisNew York City health officials are growing increasingly worried that this strain of meningitis, which is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and the spinal cord, is so insidious that it could suddenly mushroom into a major outbreak, claiming many lives before anything can be done to stop it…

…There have been 22 cases, all among men, of the unique strain since 2010, 13 of them last year and 4 this year, Dr. Varma said. Seven of them have died. Twelve were H.I.V.-positive, a possible risk factor. Ten of the cases were in Brooklyn — in neighborhoods as varied as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, East New York, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg.

Find a clinic near you that dispenses vaccine, here.

Many of men who are at risk may not identify themselves as either gay or bisexual, even though they are having sex with other men, health officials said. So it is hard to reach out to them through gay organizations, and it is hard to get them to come forward to be vaccinated.

More at the NYT


  1. Sargon Bighorn says

    Way back in the Pleistocene age it was the bath house that spread STIs. Now it your living room. Oh how times have changed.

  2. WhatWhat says

    I had a good friend die from this last year. Went to Columbus, Ohio on a business trip, had a few Grindr hookups. Got back to Pittsburgh and was dead within a week. He was 29, ridiculously healthy, always practiced safe sex and in great shape. No one can still believe he’s passed.

    The scary thing about it, you can get this through simply kissing. Granted, there are tons of diseases you can get from kissing, but most of them don’t kill you. Gay men need to be more careful.

  3. says

    what does the use of an app, or a bar or party, have to do with any of this?

    are they saying if you meet a cute guy at church or at work you magically won’t get Meningitis from him?

  4. David Hearne says

    Kiwi :

    I suspect it’s one of those odds things. The more contact you have, the greater the likelihood of contacting someone who is sick. Imagine that.

    I don’t know about you, but I carry Purell everywhere I go. People are nasty and inconsiderate. It’s not at all unusual for the cashier at Walmart to cough or touch his face and then handle my purchases and money.

    The Scientologists are nuts, but they are right about one thing: you have no right to make someone else sick. Unfortunately, American corporate culture is such that we reward people for coming to work while sick.

  5. G.I. Joe says

    Maybe it’s wrong from me, but I don’t feel any empathy to closet cases and those “men who have sex with men but don’t want to call themselves gay” who don’t feel concerned when people talk about gay people.

    If they’re too stupid and too good for the word gay, let them die.

  6. Lars says

    @Kiwi: if you actually read the article, you’d see that the use of apps and websites and other anonymous interactions is relevant because they makes the infections harder to trace, and their spread more difficult to map.

    But good for you, shooting the messenger. Keep preaching that gospel of sex-without-consequences! God forbid that any of the rest of us choose to lift our heads out of the sand.

  7. says

    what gospel of sex without consequences? how is meeting someone without grindr or a hook-up site or “party” going to be the factor in “being able to trace” anything?

    it’s not as if meeting a guy another way is going to give you a “traceability” , or that grindr-users will be utterly unable to, i dunno, remember named, phone numbers, addresses, etc.

    i read the article, i stand by what i said. the medium used in meeting a guy has nothing at all to do with his having, or your contracting, meningitis nor your abilities to “trade down” whomever infected you, or whom you spread it to.

    if there’s a meningitis outbreak, and there sure seems to be, then getting your head out of the sand means recognizing that any and all contact is potential risk – regardless of how you met the dude.

    i aint shooting no messenger, i’m puzzled by the wording of their message.

    grindr hookups can be anything but anonymous, and seemingly-“dignified” interactions are no guarantee for a thorough exchange of contact information.

  8. nefter says

    Oh please, I agree with KIWI on this one, they should say what they mean “don’t be a gay ho and if you must get the shot”.

  9. Lars says

    @Kiwi: Maybe you don’t work in Public Health. Officials have identified a correlation between the infections and certain sexual behavior (ie anonymous and outside the context of a known relationship or association), and they have issued guidance accordingly.

    If they had found that this strain was being spread between coworkers or fellow church goers, as you suggested, then they would have issued very different guidance. But — shockingly! — this is not the case.

    And yeah, it is difficult to track the spread when the infected guys can’t remember or never knew basic info about the guys they hooked up with. You can theorize all you want about “dignified” vs. grindr hook-ups, but Public Health officials don’t have that luxury, as they must operate in the real world.

  10. says

    @Little Kiwi,
    from the NC health site:
    “How is invasive meningococcal disease spread?
    This disease is spread by prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected
    person. Examples of prolonged contact include living in the same household or engaging in intimate
    activities, such as kissing and sexual contact.”

    Meningitis affects people very quickly which means your window for infecting someone before getting sick is similarly short. The cute guy you from church or work could be showing symptoms by the time you got a chance to get close.
    An anonymous hookup could be in you and out before he even has a headache.

    I usually agree with you but this time I think you’re missing the point. This isn’t about judging sexual behavior, it’s to pointing out a functioning transmission vector for a deadly disease. There is nothing wrong with telling people to protect themselves.
    I’m getting my vaccine tomorrow.

  11. says

    @Little Kiwi
    Then again, I can’t imagine having a Grindr hookup without getting the guy’s phone number.
    It makes more sense hooking up on a bar or sex party would be more anonymous.

    Imagine the headlines if this were just a Grindr thing:
    “Deadly Meningitis outbreak among members of the Trick family”

  12. BobN says

    “the medium used in meeting a guy has nothing at all to do…”

    The fellow you meet at church is unlikely to have met and had sex with someone else the last time he was in church and/or every time he is in church, and even if he did, that would make one hook-up a week, quite a bit less frequent than SOME folks who use Grindr.

  13. Duration & Convexity says

    Closet cases are dying. Oh well.

    Most all gay men I know happily use protection and don’t hook up on craigslist with “str8 acting on the down low” profiles. They are not all angels, but do establish a connection with someone before having sex, be it a friendship or relationship.

    The most reckless and horrid sexual behavior is of those CLOSETED self hating gays.

  14. Kyle Landry says

    @ BOBN…don’t you DARE even bring church goers in here as a standard for morality and good behavior. You church people are THE MOST VILE of folks and do the most horrific acts behind closed doors. You run to a church once a week so all can be forgiving but those 6 other days? you religious people are walking cesspool.

  15. Kyle Landry says

    @ BOBN…don’t you DARE even bring church goers in here as a standard for morality and good behavior. You church people are THE MOST VILE of folks and do the most horrific acts behind closed doors. You run to a church once a week so all can be forgiving but those 6 other days? you religious people are walking cesspool.

  16. says

    Well, then clearly I’m insane, because I don’t understand why it can’t be “hey, are you in a non-monogamous sexual relationship or a guy who has sex or intimate contact with other guys? if so, get vaccinated against meningitis, because it’s going around and it’s killing people, yo.”

    since the reality is that any forms of close/intimate-contact can lead to infection, the message should just be that – Disease Going Around, Get Yourself Vaccinated.

  17. andrew says

    This is another good reason to avoid hookups, one night stands, anonymous sex and casual sex of any kind. Date guys, go to dinner or places of interest, get to know one another and then if you connect, get involved sexually. Don’t jump in the sack at the first meeting. And also get yourself vaccinated.