After the sudden death of a gay man in
West Hollywood, officials in Los Angeles began offering free
meningitis vaccines on Monday.
Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old lawyer, was
declared brain dead but remained on life support Friday afternoon,
two days after being admitted to the emergency room at Cedar-Sinai
Medical Center. He died Saturday, 20 minutes after being taken off
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.
Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS
Healthcare Foundation, announced the free program in a statement.
“As a public health outreach, AHF
will now offer the meningitis vaccine for free at our Hollywood (6210
W. Sunset Blvd.) and West Hollywood (8212 Santa Monica Blvd.) AHF
pharmacy sites and at our Hollywood Men's Wellness Center (1300 N.
Vermont Ave.) to anyone who thinks that they are at risk or have had
exposure – particularly, those in the MSM (men who have sex with
men) population,” Weinstein said. “We are prepared to offer up
to 10,000 vaccinations for free at these three AHF locations and will
consider adding additional AHF sites should there be a need or
demand. It is my hope that the Health Department of the County of
Los Angeles and CDC will also step up to the plate long before we get
to those levels, if there is found to be a need to do so.”
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.
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.