LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Health officials urged all gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated against meningitis, regardless of their risk profile, after nine new cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been diagnosed since May 1.

The new cases of invasive meningococcal disease bring this year’s total in Los Angeles County to 13, according to the Department of Public Health. Seven of the Los Angeles County cases have affected self-identified gay men or men who have sex with men.

Given that total and cases in other jurisdictions, the state has declared an outbreak.

The expanded recommendation was made by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in conjunction with Orange County’s Health Care Agency and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

“We acknowledge this broadens our prior recommendations. But after careful consultation with the CDC and health officers in other affected jurisdictions, we consider that this expansion of the vaccination recommendations is a necessary step to suppress this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles County’s interim health officer.

Previously, health officials had recommended vaccination for gay and bisexual men “who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners or who seek partners through digital applications, particularly those who share cigarettes/marijuana or use illegal drugs,” versus current broader recommendations.

Meningitis vaccinations are also recommended for all HIV-infected people.

Free vaccinations are available at public health clinics for those at high risk, regardless of health insurance status.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also offers free vaccination at its four Los Angeles-area health centers in Hollywood, West Adams, Sherman Oaks and Long Beach.

Health officials said people can also help prevent the spread of the disease by not sharing drinks, utensils, food, toothbrushes, cigarettes, cigars or pipes; and not having multiple kissing partners.

Meningococcal diseases is a rare, but serious disease. The illness that most people are familiar with is meningitis. It can start with flu-like symptoms, then progress to high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and rash. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

The disease is fatal in about one in 10 patients.

More information can be found at publichealth.lacounty.gov.

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