Californian men’s health clinics are offering free meningococcal meningitis vaccinations to men who have sex with men (MSM) after a 33-year-old gay man died in West Hollywood.

West Hollywood lawyer Brett Shaad was removed off life support and died last Saturday after being diagnosed with a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis.

Last month, the New York City Health Department urged MSM to get vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis.

Four new cases of meningitis among MSM have been reported in NYC since the start of January, bringing the total to 17 cases since 2012.

The department said three out of the last five reported cases were fatal.

There have been 22 reported cases among MSM including seven deaths since 2010.

Local gay health body ACON last week issued a travel health warning for gay men travelling to NYC based on advice from the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM).

ACON director of HIV and Sexual Health programs Geoff Honnor said that while there was no “particular linkage” between meningococcal and gay men locally, the New York outbreak has “been going on much longer among this group than you’d normally expect”.

“Symptoms come on rapidly, usually within five days and include high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical assistance immediately,” Honnor said.

Meningococcal disease, a severe bacterial infection of the bloodstream, spreads through contact with bodily fluids and has a fatality rate of between 10 and 20 per cent.

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