Health Officials: Meningitis Outbreak in NYC’s LGBT Community has Stopped

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday September 18, 2013

Members of New York City's LGBT community can breathe a sigh of relief: according to the city's health officials, there has not been a single case of a new strain of meningitis since February, CBS 2 reports.

"We're very pleased that it appears the outbreak has been stopped. It's the longest period we've gone without a case since the beginning of 2011," Dr. Jay Varma, the deputy health commissioner for disease control, told radio station WCBS 880.

Earlier this year officials from the New York City Department of Health urged gay, bisexual men and men who have sex with men, living or visiting NYC to get a meningitis vaccine after a deadly strain of meningitis hit the area nearly three years ago, leaving some men dead before they could even see a doctor.

After the announcement was made, the health department warned the city's LGBT population directly through advertisements on blogs, websites and mobile gay hookup apps, CBS 2 reports.

"We have learned a lot about the impact we can have using other ways of getting messages out," Varma said.

In total 22 men were infected with the new strain of meningitis and seven died since 2010. Health officials were confused as to why the virus was impacting the gay community and Varam admits that it "still remains a bit of a mystery."

Health officials, however, are still exploring the disease and are interviewing men who survived the virus to figure out why some people were infected and others were not.

"We have a number of different theories, but we're trying to understand which is likely to be true," Varma added. "It's certainly possible there could be similar outbreaks in other places," Varma said. "The more we learn from our experience, the more likely we are to prevent this from becoming a problem either here in New York City or somewhere else."

Officials still stress that gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men who hookup in bars, parties or online, should get the meningitis vaccine.

The outbreak not only impacted NYC, however. As the Associated Press reports, the deadly strain of meningitis also hit West Hollywood, Calif.

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