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Officials Worry About Spread Of Meningitis On Pride Weekend

WEST HOLLYWOOD (   —   As night falls on West Hollywood – the LA County Department of Public Health is shedding light on the unusual spread of meningitis among gay men.

Darren Bitonio says he recently got vaccinated for the rare disease – that can cause brain damage or even death. And it can be spread by saliva.

"I am a guy. Just for extra protection," he told KCAL 9's Jeff Nguyen.

Since last year – LA County has had 29 cases of meningitis -- 10 involve gay men.

The Department of Public Health believes only about a third of the community has been vaccinated.

The hope is that more gay people will learn about the uptick in the disease during LA Pride.

This weekend's festivities come a year after the Pulse Nightclub massacre that killed nearly 50 people in Orlando.

"I was living in Florida then," says Nikki Cundiff, "That was scary. So this is much more beautiful. I worry sometimes going out if that's going to happen again. This is a big deal."

There's been change to this year's Pride.

On Sunday – the traditional parade will be replaced by what's being called a "resist march," as a push back against the Trump administration.

"I think we have to change the congress and then we have to change the White House," says LA County Supervisor Sheila Keuhl.

During the march – streets will be closed between Hollywood and Highland and West Hollywood Park.

Until then, one group changed the street lights to spread a message of inclusion during Pride.

"No matter who you are. No matter what you believe, you should walk proud," says Jana Pinkosky.

Activism is also the goal of a van – spreading awareness of protecting yourself against HIV.

But Biotonio says the LGBTQ community shouldn't stop there.

"That's the main topic,  it's HIV, but [people] never bring up meningitis," he says.

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