ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — An outbreak of Meningitis in the Commonwealth has health professionals on high alert. According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), there have been 27 reported cases since June 2022.

Jason Deese with VDH says that is about three times the normal number of cases.

“Meningococcal illness, can cause death within a day or so of symptom onset,” said Deese.

Deese says Meningitis is usually seen in college-age people, but says this outbreak is primarily impacting African-American men between the ages of 30 and 60.

He adds that of all the reported cases this past year, there is a staggering common denominator.

“Of the 27 cases, almost all of them, in fact all but one, were unvaccinated,” said Deese.

According to the health department, the usual symptoms of Meningitis include fever, rash, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and stiffness of the neck. It can spread through droplets, meaning if an infected person shares their food or drink, kisses you, or coughs around you, you could be at risk.

Dr. Caesar Gonzales from Centra Health says due to the severity of the disease, if you think you have been exposed it’s best to seek medical attention.

“If you know that you’re exposed you can go in to see your doctor and get a prophylactic antibiotic which means you can take it and you won’t get sick,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales recommends taking simple steps to stay healthy including washing your hands regularly and monitoring any symptoms that may seem unusual to you, even if they don’t seem severe at the time.

Doctors also recommend getting the Meningitis vaccine if you don’t already have it, they say you can usually get it from your primary doctor as well as some clinics.