RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Twenty-seven cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in east, central and southwest Virginia. Five patients have died.

The Virginia Department of Health, or VDH, announced a statewide outbreak of meningococcal disease, according to a news release. The disease is caused by the bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis type Y and is rare, but can be a serious illness. The bacteria spreads from person to person through the exchange of salvia or respiratory secretions including: kissing, sneezing or coughing near another’s face.

Most case-patients are Black or African American adults between 30-60 years old. Twenty-six case-patients were not vaccinated for Neisseria meningitidis type Y. People can develop serious forms of illness, such as meningitis or septicemia, if left untreated. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics.

The VDH recommended the following:

  • Don’t share personal items (e.g., vapes, lipsticks, toothbrushes).
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Do not delay seeking care if you experience symptoms of meningococcal disease.
  • Ensure adolescents and teenagers receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) on schedule at 11 or 12 years of age and then a booster dose at 15-16 years of age.
  • Speak to your healthcare provider if you are at increased risk for meningococcal disease to ensure you are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine.

Contact your local health department if you have questions about your options for accessing the MenACWY vaccine.

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