Atlanta Pride: Don’t worry about meningitis

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This will kill your rainbow boner ahead of Atlanta Pride this weekend: Meningitis. But festival organizers say the potentially lethal disease that's scaring gay men in some big cities isn't a concern in gay Atlanta.

So Atlanta Pride's medical director says there's no need to seek a meningitis vaccine ahead of Friday's kickoff, a move that health officials recommended to gay men in advance of New York City's massive Pride celebration in late June.

“The experience there doesn’t necessarily translate here,” Dr. Jason Schneider, the festival's medical director for and an associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, says in a prepared statement. “No widespread vaccination program is recommended at this time. Because meningitis disease activity is at its normal low level in our community, people do not need to seek out the meningococcal vaccine before Atlanta Pride weekend.”

Bacterial meningitis can be transmitted through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions with people in close contact or direct contact with a patient's oral secretions, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. People with HIV are particularly susceptible. Symptoms can include the sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

It typically takes symptoms three to seven days to appear, according to the CDC. But Pride officials say if you're feeling sick, get help and stay home.

“We look forward to people coming to Piedmont Park and enjoying themselves,” says Atlanta Pride Executive Director Buck Cooke. “But if you’re sick, seek medical attention and then stay home. We want people attending the festival to have fun and remain healthy.”

In June, health officials in New York told gay men to seek vaccination before attending Pride events after seeing higher rates of infection and death from meningitis among gay men. After meningitis led to the death of an HIV-positive man in April, health officials in Los Angeles warned gay men about the disease.


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