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Meningococcal warnings issued after Florida outbreak

An outbreak of meningococcal disease has led health officials to issue warnings across Florida.

The Florida Department of Health in Duval, Clay, St. Johns and other counties said the rare but potentially devastating disease is treatable and preventable. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the disease, they said.

The number of cases identified in Florida in 2022 surpasses the five-year average, according to an advisory from the Florida Department of Health.

Lisa Rogers, with the state Health Department in Clay County, said no cases have been reported there, but she said people should take the threat seriously.

Duval County said it has no information about cases and referred questions to the state Health Department.

The disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Early symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, confusion and rash.

Severe cases can be deadly and include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria 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.

The Health Department said the following groups should consider vaccination with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine — or MenACWY — during this outbreak:

  • College and university students.
  • 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.

State epidemiologists are investigating each case as well as contacting people with potential or direct exposure to known cases to provide them with information and treatment options.
For more information about meningococcal disease, go to the CDC website or the FDOH website.