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Meningococcal disease in men who have sex with men

16 Jul 2013

Since August 2010, there have been cases of meningococcal disease (serogroup C) reported from New York City amongst Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). To date there have been 22 cases and 7 deaths. In 2013 we have seen sporadic cases of meningococcal disease being reported from France, Germany and Belgium. As a result, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is asking countries to be vigilant, particularly over the summer period with on-going Gay Pride and other festivals across Europe, to detect possible spread quickly and to co-ordinate any required response.

There is currently no evidence of either increased levels of disease amongst MSM in the UK or increased risk to those travelling to Europe or to the USA. Meningococcal disease caused by serogroup C is now rare in the UK as a vaccine against the disease (MenC vaccine) has been offered since 1999 and is currently available for all individuals under 25 years.  As a result of the campaign almost all the UK young adult population (up to 35 years old) will be protected against this disease.

Advice for Travellers

  • Individuals who are under 25yrs and have not received a MenC vaccine should be immunised in line with national recommendations.
  • MSM aged ≥25  years who are travelling to New York City, or to one of the Gay Pride or other festivals in Europe this summer and who have not been vaccinated may wish to discuss their individual risks with their healthcare provider and consider the need for travel vaccination against meningococcal C disease. Vaccination in this group is not covered by national policy and should be charged to the individual (private prescription).
  • Travel in itself is not a risk, but factors associated with the New York City outbreak included being HIV positive and having regular intimate contact with multiple male partners met through a website, smartphone application, bar or party.
  • Further information on meningococcal meningitis, signs and symptoms and available vaccines can be found here.