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City Health Officials Investigating Deadly Bacterial Meningitis Outbreak Among HIV-Positive Men

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - The New York City Health Department has alerted local doctors of an outbreak of deadly bacterial meningitis among HIV-infected gay men.

Officials said in the past month, at least one person has died and another was hospitalized in critical condition from the outbreak.

"Since August 2010, we've detected 12 cases of this very specific strain but what we're most concerned about is that in the past four weeks there have been four cases and one of those cases has died," Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Jay Varma told 1010 WINS.

Of the 12 cases associated with the outbreak, four have died in the past two years, according to the health department.

The four recent cases have all been among HIV-positive men, according to the health department.

"The biggest challenge with this infection is once you get sick it causes illness very, very quickly," Varma said. "Once they develop symptoms such as fever, headache, a stiff neck or a rash, the symptoms progress very, very quickly and people can become severely ill."

Investigators are trying to find out how the infection spread. People the men were in close contact have been treated with antibiotics.

"One good part about this outbreak, if you could ever say anything good about an outbreak, is that the bacteria that causes this infection is easily treatable with common antibiotics," Varma told 1010 WINS.

The health department said bacterial meningitis is spread by prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected person. Examples of prolonged contact include living in the same household or engaging in intimate activities, such as kissing and sexual contact.

Bacterial meningitis can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The disease is rare, but people with HIV-weakened immune systems are more susceptible.

Common symptoms of meningitis are high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that develop rapidly within two days, according to the health department.

Officials said people who experience symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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