According to the National Meningitis Association, meningococcal disease is estimated to infect about 1500 Americans per year, citing adolescents and young adults as the highest risk population.
Out of 500 fatalities a year from this disease, only a small percentage is among gay men.
This is not what Los Angeles politician John Duran would lead you to believe when he compared “an isolated case” in New York, where 23 gay or bisexual men were infected with meningitis which resulted in seven deaths, to the AIDS epidemic 30 years ago. The Los Angeles man who contracted meningitis, prompting Duran’s speech about the topic, died from meningitis after the press conference where Duran made a statement urging all gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated. He falsely connected the disease to being gay and sexually active.
Although meningitis is a potentially fatal disease that can be prevented with vaccination, it is misleading to associate it only with the male gay community and the CDC says that calling it “extremely contagious” is an overstatement. This type of statement led other media sources to report even more misleading stories about the events that happened in NYC. ABC’s Katie Moisse lowered her credibility as a news reporter when she ran a story that headlined, “Meningitis Spreading Via Anonymous Sex in NYC.” Moisse stated that meningitis is being transmitted sexually, which is not a supported fact, not even by the sources that she cited in her article.
Although many are trying peg meningitis as being the next epidemic that sexually active gay men should worry about, Dr. Vy Chu, who provides care to the local LGBT community at Capitol Hill Medical, says “There has been some overreaction to the meningitis ‘cluster’ in New York.”
Chu goes on to say that there is little downside to getting the vaccination because it is a “devastating disease,” but that the LGBT community should worry more about contracting STDs.
This is not a new disease. The first meningitis outbreak was recorded in Geneva in 1805 and in the late 20th century, vaccines led to a decline in meningitis. Today meningitis still exists and can be potentially fatal if not prevented or treated but like any other disease it does not prefer a sexual orientation but rather a set of circumstances that would allow the disease to be contracted. For meningitis, according to the CDC, this bacterium is most likely “spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions.”
Routine vaccinations are recommended for all who want to avoid preventable communicable diseases.