LOS ANGELES, April 7 (UPI) -- Three have died due to meningitis in Los Angeles, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Thursday.
The department announced their have been eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the county so far this year, four of which occurred in gay men, the L.A. Times reports.
Invasive meningococcal disease causes meningitis, an inflammation of the the meninges, the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be spread through exposure to sneezing and coughing and contact with saliva and mucous. Kissing, sharing beverages or cigarettes, and living in group settings can transmit the bacteria responsible for infection.
Symptoms usually onset within five days of exposure to the bacteria, and may include a high fever, stiff neck, aches, and an aversion to bright lights.
Officials say individuals with weakened immune systems due to HIV may be at a higher risk for contracting the disease, three of the cases being in immunocompromised patients who were HIV positive.
The county will provide free vaccinations for patients without health insurance.
[Los Angeles Times]