The deadly strain, which Varma called “absolutely terrifying,” claimed many of its 22 victims within a matter of hours after symptoms began showing. In September of last year, the NYC Health Department issued a warning of an “invasive meningococcal disease…that has a high fatality rate,” and encouraged residents to get vaccinated with a unique campaign that offered more than 10,000 vaccines at the city’s gay bars.
The disease was reportedly “spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit,” and most often appeared in HIV+ men.
Varma told local CBS affiliate WCBS this week that there has not been a new case since February, which is “the longest period we’ve gone without a case since the beginning of 2011.” He credited the city’s education campaign employed through a number of targeted advertisements on mobile apps and blogs as the reason for the halt in infections. “We have learned a lot about the impact we can have using other ways of getting messages out,” he said.
The Health Department still doesn’t know what caused the lethal strain to appear and spread so quickly—it’s “still remains a bit of a mystery,” said Varma—but is encouraging gay men to continue to get the vaccine. “It’s certainly possible there could be similar outbreaks in other places,” he continued. “The more we learn from our experience the more likely we are to prevent this from becoming a problem either here in New York City or somewhere else.”