SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a warning Wednesday about “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history.”

The CDC is reporting at least 24 cases and seven deaths among gay and bisexual men. Those who live in Florida are recommended to get the meningococcal vaccine and to talk with their health care providers if they are visiting Florida. People living with HIV are also urged to be vaccinated

“Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly,” Dr. José R. Romero, director the national center for immunization and respiratory diseases, stated in the press release. “Because of the outbreak in Florida, and the number of Pride events being held across the state in coming weeks, it’s important that gay and bisexual men who live in Florida get vaccinated, and those traveling to Florida talk to their healthcare provider about getting a MenACWY vaccine.”

The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis causes meningococcal disease, or meningitis. Symptoms can appear suddenly, and can include:

  • high fever
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • nausea/vomiting
  • dark purple rashes

While at first appearing like the flu, symptoms can spread quickly.

“People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit),” the CDC stated. “Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact, such as kissing or being near someone coughing, to spread these bacteria.

“People can find a meningococcal vaccine by contacting their doctor’s office, pharmacy, community health center, or local health department,” the press release continued. “In Florida, anyone can get a MenACWY vaccine at no cost at any county health department during the outbreak.”