Chicago health officials on Thursday said a small but serious outbreak of Invasive Meningococcal Disease has expanded since their first alert earlier this month.
"Meningitis is a serious disease, but there is a safe and effective vaccine available," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. "We are working with our partners to help stop the spread of disease, and we encourage anyone who is at risk to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated."
Officials said there have been six confirmed cases of meningitis among men who sleep with men -- five of them in Chicago. One of those cases has been fatal. A seventh case was under investigation Thursday, with laboratory tests pending.
Thursday's alert said African American men who sleep with men appear to be disproportionately affected by the outbreak.
The disease, less contagious than the common cold, is spread through saliva -- kissing and sharing drinks -- or through intimate contact.
Meningococcal disease can cause symptoms including fever, headache and a stiff neck. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status or confusion. Anyone with symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. Those without health insurance can call 311 to find a CDPH clinic or partner site.
CDPH and its partners will make no cost vaccine available at several upcoming events throughout the city. A list was posted to the CDPH website.