Victorian health authorities are offering free meningococcal vaccinations for gay and bisexual men following an eighth diagnosis of the disease’s C-strain since May.

Local GPs in Melbourne will be offering free vaccines from Monday December 11 to prevent further spread of the disease, ABC News has reported.

Though uncommon, meningococcal can be deadly, with ten per cent of cases proving fatal within 48 hours of diagnosis.

Meningococcal bacteria develops in the throat and nose and can be passed on by intimate contact.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, neck stiffness, lessened appetite, and light sensitivity.

Meningococcal C is one of five strains of the disease. The vaccine is also offered to school students as part of government-run immunisation programs.

If you’re unsure if you have already received the vaccine, you can check the Australian Immunisation Register provided by Medicare.

Brett Sutton, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, said almost all of the patients diagnosed identified as bisexual or gay.

“Eight doesn’t sound like a big number, but if this were to affect the whole of Melbourne at the same rate as it’s affected men who have sex with men, we’d be talking about a couple of hundred cases over a few months,” Sutton said.

“My message to this group in the community is simple: If you are vaccinated, you protect yourself and others around you by reducing the spread of the disease.”

Sutton said “intimate kissing” is believed to be “what’s driving transmission in this outbreak.”

You can access more information about meningococcal and its vaccine here.

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