FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — Meningococcal diagnosis’ in 2022 surpassed the 5-year average of meningococcal disease cases in Florida, according to the Florida Health Department in Okaloosa County.

The county is offering free vaccines to those 18 and older in Fort Walton Beach starting June 24. Appointments must be made by calling 850-833-9246.

“This is a serious disease caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.” said the health department.

The rare disease is not as contagious as the common cold or the flu. The department said close contact over a long period of time, including kissing and sharing drinks can cause the bacteria to spread. The bacteria is found in the back of the throat.

“People do not catch the bacteria through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with meningococcal disease has been.”

Florida Health Department in Okaloosa County

The department issued a list of groups that should consider the vaccine:

  • Men who have sex with men ages 18 and older
  • People living with HIV ages 18 and older 
  • LGBTQ+ ages 18 and older 
  • Immunocompromised individuals ages 18 years and older 
  • People in any groups listed above who received their MenACWY vaccine more than 5 years ago. 

Early Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Confusion
  • Rash. 

Florida offers a website full of vaccine information.

The CDC said 10 percent of the population are carriers of Meningococcal bacteria.

Out of 100 people with meningococcal disease, 10 to 15 die. Additional 10 to 20 suffer disabilities (hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, loss of limb, nervous system problems, severe scars from skin graft).

Center for Disease Control and Prevention