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Gay men concerned after LA meningitis deaths

BY CHRISTOPHER WEBER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- In the heart of this close-knit gay community, Luke Martel reflects the feelings of many when it comes to a strain of meningitis that has killed three gay men this year in Los Angeles County: He's concerned but not overly so.

Martel, a gay bartender who moved to West Hollywood from New York City several months ago, called the deaths from the rare bacterial infection that can be passed by kissing, sharing utensils or coughing "a little scary" but said he doesn't plan to heed calls to get vaccinated.

"I might not take a drag off someone's cigarette now. And I'll run from people who don't cover their mouths when they cough," he said. But otherwise, he believes, "I'm safe."

Health officials this week announced a cluster of cases of invasive meningococcal disease that sickened eight people in the LA area. Among those who fell ill, half were gay or bisexual, including the three who died. Two of the victims were HIV-positive.

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