CHICAGO – Since its annual pride fest week began on Saturday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health officials have commenced free vaccinations for all gay and bisexual men so as to stop the spread of meningitis which had already infected six patients, with a fatality.

With over one million people expected to be in Chicago to celebrate the event, Dr. Julie Morita, the commissioner for the Chicago Department of public health has urged all HIV-positive men as well as men who have had sex with other men within the past five years to come forward for the free vaccine shot.

According to Christopher Barrett Politan, executive director of the Northalsted Business Alliance, organizer of the pride fest events, the CDC and the Chicago Department of public health including other health organizations will provide meningitis shots to all gay and bisexual men during and after the Pride Fest event.

While meningitis can be transmitted by kissing or sharing a drink with an infected person, Morita stated that people must be cautious of strangers and limit intimate contacts because they may not know the diseases the other party has. To this effect, the vaccine shot will be effective against meningitis, as well as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and even the common cold.

Infected people show symptoms within 2-10 days of meningitis infection, and the symptoms to watch out for are fever, vomiting, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and confusion among others. It can ultimately cause hearing loss, brain damage, and death if not treated in time.

Since the vaccine takes 10-14 days to start working in the body, people are warned that they could receive the vaccine and still infect others during the pride fest festivities – so they should restrain from any undue and unadvised intimacy for fear of getting infected with meningitis. The vaccine, however, provides protection for five years.