Amid a growing outbreak of meningitis in the city, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has expanded its meningitis vaccine recommendations to include all men who have sex with men (MSM). The new recommendation follows discussions between CDPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meningitis can be deadly if not treated. Since the beginning of June, there have been six confirmed cases of meningitis among MSM in Illinois, with one fatality. Five of those cases occurred among Chicago residents. A potential seventh case is being investigated, with laboratory results pending. Although African American MSM have been disproportionately affected by this outbreak, CDPH has expanded the recommendation to protect all at risk individuals.
“Meningitis is a serious disease, but there is a safe and effective vaccine available,” says CDPH commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “We are working with our partners to help stop the spread of disease, and we encourage anyone who is at risk to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated.”
Individuals who are at risk should talk to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated. MSM who received the meningitis vaccine more than five years ago should get a booster shot. If you do not have a healthcare provider, talk to a pharmacist or call 311 to find a CDPH clinic where vaccine is available at no cost or a partner clinic where copays may apply.
In addition, CDPH and its partners will make no cost vaccine available at several upcoming events throughout the City:
Date Location Hours
Saturday, June 20, 2015 Pride Festival, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 20, 2015 Jackson Park, UIC COIP Mobile Van 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 21, 2015 Pride Festival, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, 2015 Jackson Park, UIC COIP Mobile Van 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, 2015 Montrose Rocks 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Many of our partners, Howard Brown, Near North Health Services Corporation, Cook County Health and Hospital System and Walgreens, have stepped up to help limit the spread of this serious disease,” says Morita. “We are committed to protecting the health of those who are at risk and will make this vaccine available as widely as possible.”
Meningitis can cause symptoms including fever, headache and a stiff neck. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status or confusion. If you experience these symptoms, please consult a medical provider immediately. The disease spreads through prolonged, close contact with saliva that can include intimate kissing, sexual contact, sharing drinks or sharing marijuana and cigarettes. For more information on meningitis and how to protect yourself, download this CDPH fact sheet.