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Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH


May 17, 2017

Invasive Meningococcal Disease

You have probably been hearing about invasive meningococcal disease, IMD, or what is often called “meningitis,” in the news lately. There have been eight confirmed cases of IMD in Los Angeles County since the beginning of 2017, including one person who died from the infection. The ages of these cases range from 12 to 72 years, with the most recent cases occurring in teens. Although IMD is a very serious infectious disease, there is a vaccine available for persons who are at risk for the infection. It is highly recommended that children and high-risk groups get vaccinated.

What is IMD?

IMD is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It is spread via direct contact with the secretions of someone who has the bacteria in their nose or throat. Kissing, coughing, or sharing items that put you in direct contact with an infected person’s saliva or spit are some of the most common ways IMD is spread. When a person becomes sick with IMD, they may initially feel like they are coming down with the flu. Usually, there is a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. The illness can then progress to include confusion and a rash. If not treated, it can lead to swelling of the brain and spinal cord, loss of a limb, brain damage, or even death. This is why it is important to know what it is and how to prevent it.

The IMD Vaccine Can Protect You

The vaccine prevents IMD infection and is recommended for the following groups:

  • All children ages 11-12 with a second dose at 16 years of age.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pre-teens and teens be vaccinated against meningococcus A, C, W and Y (Menactra or Menveo). A second type of vaccine (Bexsero and Trumenba) is available which adds protection against serogroup B.
  • All HIV positive persons
  • College students
  • Workers in medical labs
  • All gay or bisexual men (men who have sex with men) in Los Angeles County, regardless of risk or HIV status
  • All persons older than 2 months of age who have certain medical conditions that make them less able to fight off disease

Seek Medical Care Immediately if You Think You Have IMD, or if You Have Had Recent Close Contact with Someone Who Has IMD

It is important to contact your health care provider if you experience symptoms that suggest you may have IMD. You should also talk to your health care provider if you have had recent close contact with someone who has IMD. IMD is treatable with antibiotics, but being vaccinated is the easiest and most effective way to prevent illness.

Our Public Health Centers offer vaccines for all people at higher risk for IMD, regardless of health insurance status. Please call ahead to confirm availability. Click here for additional clinics that offer the vaccine.

Ways to Prevent IMD

In addition to staying current with the vaccination recommendations, it is important to limit activities that spread saliva:

  • Don’t share drinks, utensils, food, lip balm, or toothbrushes
  • Don’t have multiple kissing partners
  • Don’t share things you smoke, like cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs
  • Practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes
  • Limit close contact with people who are sick

Further information on IMD can be found on the Department of Public Health Acute Communicable Disease Control web page and the Immunization Program web page. More information specific to men who have sex with men can be found here.



Previous Messages

03/24/17 - Every year, World TB Day is celebrated on March 24th to commemorate the day in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and identified it as the cause of the disease tuberculosis (TB). Text

02/01/17 - We are now in the middle of the 2016-2017 flu season. A sharp increase in the number of cases has been seen throughout California, and more recently in Southern California. Even though the flu season is underway, it is still not too late to get the vaccine. Text

12/23/16 - Families often travel during the holidays to visit relatives or go on a vacation out of town. These trips are great opportunities to unplug from daily life, spend quality time together with family, and share new experiences. Text

11/09/16 - Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the most commonly reported communicable diseases and rates are rising in the United States, California and Los Angeles County (LAC). In LAC, there were nearly 75,000 STD cases reported to the Department of Public Health (DPH) in 2015. Text

8/12/16 - Climate change is a source of concern for many, especially as warmer, drier weather is observed throughout the county. This affects us in many ways. While the mild El Niño season helped fill many of California’s reservoirs, water is still a major concern. We continue to experience record-breaking temperatures. In addition, in the past few weeks, a number of fires have caused many square miles of brush and property to burn. Text

7/1/16 - In the last two months, 7 cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been reported within the Los Angeles County Public Health jurisdiction. Additional cases have been reported in surrounding jurisdictions.
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6/13/16 - June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The day is a great reminder to get tested for people who don’t know their HIV status or who may have been exposed to HIV since their last test.
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4/12/16 - Alcohol is a huge continuing problem that affects many lives and can tear families apart. Alcohol is also the second leading cause of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County, contributing to more than 1000 deaths every year
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2/10/16 - There has been a lot of information on Zika in the news lately. Below are some ways we can address this disease to keep our friends and family safe, and to prevent Zika transmission in our County.
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1/14/16 - January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to learn more about cervical cancer and ways to prevent this disease from affecting family and friends.
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12/08/15 - I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season! I hope many of you are able to spend time with family and friends while enjoying and sharing your cultural traditions. To help you and your loved ones celebrate safely over the next few weeks, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind:
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11/02/15 - November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.
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10/09/15 - The 2015-2016 influenza season has started. Make sure you and your family are protected! Get your influenza vaccine now. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes mild to serious illness.
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09/08/15 - Prescription drugs play a critical role in treating people when they are sick or feel pain. It is also very important to properly dispose of all unused or expired medications. Unused medication can pose a major health and safety risk if left in the home.
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08/10/15 - Last Thursday the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a case of human plague in California. The patient lives in LA County and was hospitalized for the illness after a family trip to Yosemite State National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Officials are still investigating where the individual may have contracted the disease.
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07/06/15 - I am happy to report that new Ebola cases in West Africa have significantly declined due to the extraordinary efforts by healthcare professionals to care for infected individuals and reduce community transmission. The number of new weekly cases in West Africa has remained below 30 for several weeks and efforts remain strong to bring the epidemic to a closure as soon as possible.
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04/22/15 - Progress continues to be made as the world responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although the situation has improved greatly and the weekly number of new cases has fallen well below 100, we must remain vigilant until the number of new cases in affected countries reaches zero. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola.
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03/17/15 - The world response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has decreased the number of new cases occurring there and there is hope that the epidemic can be stopped sometime this year. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have
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11/24/14 - Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected countries, which continues to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 15,000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,420 related deaths worldwide. In the United States, a second Ebola-related death occurred last Monday after Dr. Martin Salia was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center from Sierra Leone for medical care following several days of illness. His tragic passing highlights the critical importance of early intervention and care in recovery.
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11/17/14 - Ebola outbreaks continue to affect Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa with some new cases reported in Mali. While the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea has leveled off, the rate of rise in Sierra Leone continues to accelerate. To date, approximately 14, 000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,160 related deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate relief efforts to control the spread of infection. It is important to note that only two cases of Ebola have been exported from West Africa to other parts of the world, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the strategies that are in place to prevent spread. Those two cases are, of course, the case that was diagnosed in Dallas on September 30, and the more recent case in a physician in New York City who has recovered and been released.
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11/10/14 - The Department of Public Health continues to coordinate efforts to ensure we have an effective strategy to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. As part of these ongoing efforts, we met last week with the Hospital Association of Southern California and the California Association for Health Facilities. The meetings were held jointly with LA County Emergency Medical Services and provided hospitals and long-term health care facilities with an update on Ebola, our current activities, and response plans for LA County. Each meeting was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and facilitate coordination with all health care providers who may play a role in identifying and treating an individual with Ebola.
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11/4/14 - The State Health Officer from the California Department of Public Health recently issued a risk-based quarantine order for any individuals coming into California who had contact with a person confirmed with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will comply with the State’s order.
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10/28/14 - Last week a doctor based in New York, who had treated patients with Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. In Los Angeles County there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and we remain prepared to respond should a case happen here.
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10/21/14 - As the news continues to evolve around Ebola, I want to reassure all residents in Los Angeles County that, to date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. This past week, we have worked diligently to update and strengthen our plans to address Ebola. We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be more prepared tomorrow than we are today.
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Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
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