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Florida's meningococcal disease outbreak is slowing but health officials say it's still a threat

vials of meningococcal vaccine
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Health departments in Florida are offering meningococcal vaccines for free.

Roughly 1 in 4 people who have been diagnosed with the disease so far this year have died.

Health officials say Florida's meningococcal outbreak appears to be slowing, but they still urge caution against the deadly disease.

The state has recorded 50 cases so far this year, according to Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County and statewide medical director for county health systems.

There were only 27 cases in all of last year.

The bacterial disease can cause flu-like symptoms, but it can also lead to meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord.

“The biggest concern with meningococcal disease is that it's deadly, what we're seeing is a 25% case fatality rate here in Florida and up to 40% in more severe forms,” Choe told reporters during a press call on Tuesday.

RELATED: Florida sees one of worst outbreaks in history of meningococcal disease

Only a couple of cases have been reported in the last few weeks, which Choe said is encouraging, but he still wants anyone experiencing symptoms to notify a health professional or visit an emergency room quickly.

“There are treatments available, antibiotics, that need to be given in a timely fashion,” he said.

Health departments around the state are offering meningococcal vaccines for free.

Men who have sex with men and immunocompromised people are at higher risk of illness, said Choe. He especially encourages them to get the shots.

RELATED: The latest on monkeypox in Florida

Similar to monkeypox, meningococcal disease spreads through prolonged close contact with someone who is infected with the illness.

There have been no monkeypox deaths reported in the U.S.

Resources

The Florida Department of Health outlines who state officials recommend get vaccinated against meningococcal disease on its website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a web page on meningococcal disease with information about symptoms, risk factors and vaccines.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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