04/03/2014 10:38 EDT | Updated 06/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Bacterial meningitis deaths of 3 gay men reported in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Los Angeles County health officials say three of eight people who contracted bacterial meningitis this year have died — and all three had sex with other men.

On Wednesday, health officials urged gay men to be vaccinated against the invasive meningococcal disease, which can spread through close contact such as kissing or sharing drinks.

However, authorities say the men didn't have direct contact with each other and there's no actual outbreak in the gay community.

The department on Thursday confirmed the deaths in February and March of three men ages 27 or 28 — including two who were HIV positive. Of the other five people who fell ill, four are out of the hospital and one is hospitalized but recovering.

Free vaccinations are being offered to those without health insurance.