Terrence Higgins Trust provides advice to gay men about bacterial meningitis

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Sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust is seeking to reassure gay men in Britain following a recent spate of bacterial meningitis cases among gay men in Berlin and Paris.

The disease is rare, but people with HIV-weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infection.

In September 2012, a deadly cluster of bacterial meningitis erupted among HIV positive gay men in New York City, killing several people.

Health officials in San Francisco issued a travel advisory to gay men travelling to New York in December.

Officials in Los Angeles began warning gay sexually active men about bacterial meningitis following the death of a 33-year-old gay lawyer in West Hollywood in April.

Bacterial meningitis can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms typically develop within three to seven days of exposure and can include stiff neck, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and an altered mental state, often confusion.

Policy Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, Lisa Power, said: “Doctors have recently reported small clusters of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) (serotype C) among gay men in New York, Berlin and Paris. This is a type of meningitis. There have been a small number of deaths in those cities, particularly in men with HIV, and we are aware that news of this is spreading via social media and word of mouth.

“IMD type C is very rare in the UK, with less than 30 cases a year overall. The UK has a vaccination programme which means that over 85% of men aged 35 and under will already have been vaccinated and the vaccine is available free on the NHS to anyone under 25. An outbreak in London, or anywhere else in the UK, is therefore considered much less likely, but gay men who are concerned about the news can download an app about symptoms from the Meningitis Trust website. All HIV clinicians have had a briefing from Public Health England giving the facts.”

She added: “Realistically, if you’re out there partying this weekend at Fetish Week London or anywhere else, you’re much more at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C, gonorrhoea or sunstroke. Take your suncream, condoms, and HIV treatment if you’re positive stay informed and have a great weekend.”