Gay activists in Los Angeles are on
alert after a West Hollywood man succumbed to a potentially deadly
strain of bacterial meningitis.
Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old lawyer, was
declared brain dead but remained on life support Friday afternoon,
the AP reported.
West Hollywood Councilman John Duran,
who saw Shaad last weekend, said he appeared “robust” and “fit”
at the time.
“Last weekend, I was with him at a
local restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard,” Duran
told reporters at a news conference. “He was tall and
muscular, robust, looking as fit as a fiddle.”
Shaad went to the emergency room on
Wednesday and was in a coma by Thursday.
Officials said that while Shaad was the
only confirmed case in the area, they worried that it could be linked
to at least 22 reported cases among gay men in New York since 2010,
seven of whom have died.
“The lesson we learned 30 years ago
in the early days of HIV and AIDS is that people were not alerted to
what was going on and a lot of infections occurred that didn't need
to occur,” said Duran. “So
even with an isolated case here, we need to sound the alarms,
especially given the cases in New York.”
While meningococcal meningitis can be
effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early, it
intensifies quickly, infecting the membrane surrounding the brain and
the spinal cord. Survivors might suffer serious complications.
Symptoms include a severe headache, fever, nausea and a stiff neck.
The infection is contagious, spreading
though kissing, sharing of cups or utensils, and being in close
contact with a person who is infected.
Dr. Bob Bolan, director of medical
services at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said that the
center had asked the L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) to
supply the center with a vaccine.
“Meningococcal meningitis can be
prevented by a vaccine that is available at some local pharmacies and
clinics,” Bolan said in a statement. “We've asked DPH to give
supplies of the vaccine to community clinics like the Center's so we
can vaccinate those who want it and who are uninsured and can't
afford it. We want to prevent a public health concern from
potentially becoming a public health crisis.”
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis,
including 500 deaths, occurred in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007.