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Signs you Have a Meningococcal Disease, Say Doctors

Here’s what meningococcal disease looks and feels like.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Meningococcal vaccines are being recommended for gay and bisexual men in Florida after 26 cases of meningococcal disease and seven deaths were reported. "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," says José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Here are five signs you have meningococcal disease, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Is Meningococcal Disease?

Sick man holding his chest in pain while coughing in the living room.

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious illness which can lead to meningitis (infection of the lining of the spinal cord and brain) and and blood infections (septicemia). It is spread through close physical activity, for example kissing another person. "We want to make sure that gay and bisexual men are aware of the deadly outbreak in Florida and how easy it is to protect themselves — namely vaccination," says CDC epidemiologist Dr. Sam Crowe. "Anyone can get the disease regardless of sexual orientation, age, race."


Who Is At Risk of Meningococcal Disease?

couple in live holding hads while lying in bed together

"There is a large, ongoing outbreak of serogroup C meningococcal disease in Florida, primarily among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, including those living with HIV," says the CDC. "Recent data show that about half of the cases associated with this outbreak are among Hispanic men. This outbreak is mostly affecting people who live in Florida but has also affected some people who have traveled to Florida."


What Are the Symptoms of Meningococcal Disease?

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According to the CDC, symptoms of meningococcal disease are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)


How Can Meningococcal Disease Be Prevented?


Getting a meningococcal vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the disease, experts advise. "Getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease is the best way to prevent this serious illness, which can quickly become deadly," says Romero.


Can Meningococcal Disease Be Cured?

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Meningococcal disease is treated with antibiotics—the earlier the treatment, the better. "Meningococcal disease is serious," says Cleveland Clinic. "Ten to 15 people out of 100 will die even if they're treated with antibiotics. As many as 20% of people who survive will have long-term consequences that may include deafness, limb loss, nerve damage, kidney damage or brain damage. Complete recovery may take some time. The antibiotics are given over a seven-to-10-day period, but it may take much longer to feel better. This is especially true if you have complications."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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