October 21, 2003
CHICAGO — The city Department of Health is offering free inoculations
against bacterial meningitis to gay men on the city's North Side in
response to a meningitis outbreak that has killed three people.
Dr. John Wilhelm, the city's health commissioner, said
laboratory test results confirmed Sunday that four of six
meningitis cases reported so far were from a bacterial strain for
which there is an effective vaccine.
Wilhelm said the disease is not tied to sexual orientation, but
the recent cluster of cases appears to be centered among gay or
bisexual men who have had close personal contact since Oct. 1.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection that can be rapidly
fatal if not treated with antibiotics. It is spread by direct
contact with an infected person.
The health department ordered 7,500 doses of the vaccine, at a
cost of $50 per dose, officials said.
The city has not offered mass immunization against the disease
since an outbreak in the early 1980s. Fifteen to 40 meningitis
cases are normally reported every year in the city, health
officials said. –Sapa-AP