In September 2012, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene identified an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C invasive meningococcal disease among men who have sex with men (MSM). Twenty-two case-patients and 7 deaths were identified during August 2010-February 2013. During this period, 7 cases in non-MSM were diagnosed. The slow-moving outbreak was linked to the use of websites and mobile phone applications that connect men with male sexual partners, which complicated the epidemiologic investigation and prevention efforts. We describe the outbreak and steps taken to interrupt transmission, including an innovative and wide-ranging outreach campaign that involved direct, internet-based, and media-based communications; free vaccination events; and engagement of community and government partners. We conclude by discussing the challenges of managing an outbreak affecting a discrete community of MSM and the benefits of using social networking technology to reach this at-risk population.
Keywords: Neisseria meningitidis; New York; bacteria; community networks; disease outbreaks; internet; invasive meningococcal disease; men who have sex with men; meningococcal meningitis; serogroup C; sexual behavior.