The two highly contagious diseases measles and meningitis have seen an increase in cases this year in California. In Los Angeles, gay men are being warned to get vaccinated against the disease after three of the eight people who contracted a viral strain of meningitis died. Half of the eight cases were men who were either gay or bisexual, including the men who died. Two of the three men were also said to be HIV positive.
The president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation called the cases concerning. The foundation is offering free vaccinations to help fight against any further spreading of the disease.
Meningitis assaults the membranes protecting the spinal cord and brain. It is spread through contact like kissing, sharing drinks, or eating off of the same fork. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, fever, stiff neck, headache, altered mental status and sensitivity to light. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms and they usually develop just days after exposure to the disease. Age also plays a role in the odds of contracting the disease.
Health experts say infections occur in areas where people are in close proximity with one another. Places like elementary schools, high school locker rooms, college campuses, and jails can become breeding grounds for meningitis. However the risk of being infected is low unless you have a disease like HIV, where your immune system is compromised. The exact strain of viral meningitis popping up in Los Angeles County has not yet been identified.
Viral meningitis is not as severe bacterial meningitis but can be severe or fatal depending on the virus causing the infection. Meningitis can be caused by other diseases including herpes and measles.
Los Angeles resident Lejon Johnson contracted meningitis as a child and almost died as a result. Lejon contracted the disease after traveling on a crowded bus with his mother as a child. He developed a fever, began to have seizures and was taken the hospital. Though he was too young to remember all of the details, Lejon recalls what his mother told him about the incident.
“She said I completely regressed. I had to learn how to do everything all over again. Walk, talk, eat. Everything. I feel the disease can definitely be dangerous if it isn’t caught in time.”
In other news related to the rises of measles and meningitis, Orange County health officials held an emergency meeting after measles cases jumped up higher than normal in only a few weeks.
Currently, there have been 21 confirmed cases of measles in Orange County. The number makes the cases in Orange County the highest of all counties in California. That number is five times higher than the numbers reported in that area this times last year.
The numbers have increased across California as well. 49 cases have been confirmed since Friday. Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Riverside and San Diego are counties that have reported cases. Because of the rise in both meningitis and measles, cases in California health officials have increased their focus on encouraging vaccinations.
Health By Sarah Wright.