A nurse holds a syringe of meningitis vaccine at an AIDS Healthcare Foundation… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
Responding to escalating concerns about bacterial meningitis, Los Angeles County health officials announced Wednesday that they are offering free vaccines to low-income and uninsured residents.
The vaccines protect against meningococcal meningitis, a respiratory disease that can be deadly if not diagnosed in time. The disease can be spread by close sneezing, coughing or kissing.
The vaccines can be obtained at seven county clinics and hospitals in Los Angeles County. They include: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, Olive View/UCLA Medical Center, the High Desert Ambulatory Care Center, Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center, Hudson Comprehensive Health Center and MLK Ambulatory Care Center.
Symptoms of meningitis include fever, stiff neck, severe headache and low blood pressure.
The county began offering the free vaccines several days after the death of one man with meningitis. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation started providing free vaccines at three of its locations on Monday.
Anyone who has made direct contact with the saliva or nose mucus of a person known to be infected with meningococcal meningitis should immediately contact a healthcare provider to receive appropriate antibiotic treatment.
“We support those who are concerned by providing the vaccine free of charge to those individuals without health insurance,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, L.A. County's director of health services.
Individuals are encouraged to contact their regular medical provider to determine if vaccination is appropriate. Those who are uninsured and already go to the Department of Health Services or a community clinic should ask their doctor if vaccination is appropriate for them.
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