MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade has issued a warning about an outbreak of meningococcal disease, a potentially deadly infection, across the state that is mostly impacting gay and bisexual men and college students. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the number of cases identified in 2022 surpasses the 5-year average of meningococcal disease cases in Florida.

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The bacteria that cause the disease are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu. People do not catch the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been. It requires close contact over a period of time, or direct contact such as kissing or sharing drinks.

Early symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, confusion, and rash. Anyone who has been exposed or develops symptoms should be evaluated by a health care provider immediately. This is a rare but potentially devastating disease.

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However, it can be prevented and treated by getting vaccinated.

The following groups should consider vaccination with a meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine during this outbreak:

  • College and university students (due to outbreaks reported on college campuses in Florida
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • People living with HIV
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People in any groups listed above who received their MenACWY vaccine more than 5 years ago.

It’s encouraged preteens between the ages of 11 and 12 to get one dose of the vaccine. Then, teenagers can get a booster shot at the age of 16.

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FDOH Miami-Dade offers meningococcal vaccines. For more information, visit the FDOH Miami-Dade website https://miamidade.floridahealth.gov or call 305-575-3800.