NEW YORK, March 6 (UPI) -- The New York City Health Department Wednesday recommended men having sex with men should be vaccinated for meningitis, officials say.
Dr. Thomas Farley, commissioner of health of New York City, said four new cases of meningitis among men who have sex with men were reported since the beginning of January -- bringing the total to 17 cases since 2012. There have been 22 reported cases -- including seven fatal cases -- since 2010, Farley said.
"Meningitis symptoms usually come on quickly, and the disease can be fatal if not treated right away," Farley said in a statement. "Vaccination is the best defense. I urge all men who meet these criteria -- regardless of whether they identify as gay -- to get vaccinated now and protect themselves from this disease before it is too late."
Meningitis vaccination prevents, but does not treat, current infection, Farley said.
Common symptoms of meningitis include: high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that develop rapidly upon onset. Symptoms may occur two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days.
Meningitis can be fatal if not treated promptly and anyone who experiences these symptoms should seek medical care immediately, Farley said.
People should first ask their healthcare providers if they have the vaccine. For those who cannot obtain the vaccine from their healthcare providers, Health Department clinics can administer the vaccine.