Polk County Health Department

Meningitis in the Chicago Area – Important Information for Polk County Residents

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Chicago Department of Public Health is increasing Meningitis awareness efforts due to new cases of Meningitis (Invasive meningococcal disease) among men who have sex with men(MSM) that link to a previous outbreak in the Chicago area. To date, there are no related cases in Iowa. "Meningitis is a serious illness that can be spread through close, casual contact simply through kissing, sharing a drink or cigarette, or through sexual activity," said Rick Kozin, Director of the Polk County Health Department. "Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against Meningitis and reduce the risk of becoming infected."

Chicago offers events and festivities of interest to men who have sex with men that draw many visitors to the Chicago area. The Polk County Health Department recommends that individuals who are in close contact and/or sexually active with MSM in the Chicago area receive vaccination. The vaccine is available at most doctor's offices and clinics, some pharmacies, and the Polk County Health Department.

How is Invasive meningococcal disease spread? Invasive meningococcal disease is spread person-to-person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions through activities such as kissing, sexual contact or sharing drinks or cigarettes, smoking devices or marijuana. These bacteria are not as contagious as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu. Partners, roommates or anyone in direct contact with saliva or spit (including sexual partners) of a person with the bacteria would be considered at increased risk.

What is Invasive meningococcal disease? Invasive meningococcal disease is a rare but severe bacterial infection that can result in a number of serious illnesses including bloodstream infections and meningitis. Meningitis is when the bacteria enter the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Invasive meningococcal disease can be extremely serious and even deadly.

What are the symptoms? Signs and symptoms may include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and an altered mental state (confusion). The onset is of symptoms is usually abrupt and can progress rapidly to serious illness. Normally, it takes about 2-10 days to see symptoms of Meningitis or other Invasive meningococcal disease after infection. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider or seek medical help immediately. Be certain to inform the health care provider, if you have been in the Chicago area where there have been cases of bacterial Meningitis.

For more information about Bacterial Meningitis:

For more information about IMD in the Chicago area:

To contact the Polk County Health Department about vaccination, call (515) 286-3798

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3798
Fax: (515)-286-2033

Address: 1907, Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314