May 2013 Health Advisory: Meningococcal Vaccine Recommendations for Men Who Have Sex with Men


Invasive meningoccal disease, also known as meningitis, has been seen in New York City among men who have sex with men. In response, the Rhode Island Department of Health has issued the following recommendations:

  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) should get the meningococcal vaccine if their travel (or travel plans) include visiting New York City with expected close social interaction with other MSM.
  • Men who have sex with men who have regular social interaction with other MSM from New York City should also get the meningococcal vaccine.

This vaccination recommendation is especially important for those with HIV-infection who have had recent close contact or will have close contact with a man who is known to be, or could potentially be, from New York City. Contact includes kissing, sharing water bottles, sharing eating or drinking utensils, sharing cigarettes or being within a 3 foot distance for 8 hours or more.

What is invasive meningococcal disease?

Invasive meningococcal disease, or meningitis, is a serious infection that can cause a high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash. Some people can die from it. If you have these symptoms, seek medical care immediately. Brown students should call Health Services at 401-863-1330 right away.

How is it spread?

Invasive meningococcal disease is spread by close, ongoing contact with someone who is infected. Examples of ongoing contact include kissing and having sex. In addition, sharing eating or drinking utensils or cigaretts with someone who is infected could expose you to the disease. Invasive meningococcal disease is not spread by simply standing near someone who is infected, but being within a 3 foot distance for 8 hours or more can put you at risk of infection. People living with HIV are at greater risk of contracting the infection that causes invasive meningococcal disease.

How can I protect myself?

Vaccines help to protect people against meningococcal disease. The vaccine provides protection seven to 10 days after the shot is given. The vaccines do not contain any live bacteria and serious side effects are rare. Any side effects are usually mild, such as redness or soreness in the area where the shot was given.

Should I get the vaccine? Where can I get it?

If you have had the meningococcal vaccine in the last 5 years, you do not need a new dose. If you think that you might benefit from the vaccine or to find out if you have had the vaccine in the last 5 years, Brown students can call the Health Services nurses at 401-863-1330 or e-mail If you determine that you would benefit from the vaccine, it is available at Health Services.

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