Health

Los Angeles Gay Community on Alert for Meningitis After West Hollywood Attorney Brett Shaad Dies

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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West Hollywood attorney Brett Shaad was left brain dead after contracting a deadly strain of meningitis. His parents took him off life support at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Saturday evening.

Shaad, 33, began feeling ill on Monday and went to the emergency room on Wednesday. He was in a coma by Thursday and declared brain dead by doctors later the same day. He was taken off life support at 6:24 p.m. on Saturday.

His brother, Brian Shaad, issues a statement from the family on Saturday. “Tonight our family made the incredibly difficult decision to remove my brother Brett from life support. He died peacefully surrounded by our family and friends,” he said.

“Brett was an extraordinary person. He was a loving son, brother and grandson, an attorney with a deep passion for social justice, and a dear friend to so many people. We cannot believe that this wonderful person is gone. We love you Brett.”

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes, called the meninges, which cover the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation can be caused by viruses, bacteria, certain drugs and microorganisms.

The bacterial infection Shaad suffered often begins with nausea, headache and stiff neck.

The swift course of the illness led to a public health warning issued Friday by West Hollywood officials warning the large gay community there of a possible outbreak.

"We don't want to panic people,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran during a press conference Friday.

“But we learned 30 years ago the consequences of delay in the response to AIDS. We are sounding the alarm that sexually active gay men need to be aware that we have a strain of meningitis that is deadly on our hands.”

Duran noted that Shaad had been to a White Party on March 30. The Palm Springs party draws thousands of members from the gay community.

While most people who contract bacterial meningitis recover, they can suffer brain damage, learning disabilities or hearing loss.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says bacterial meningitis can be contagious, CDC.gov says “Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu.”

At least 13 men have been treated for meninigitis in New York City since 2010, reported the Times. But health officials have not made any connections between these cases and the one in West Hollywood.

Sources: CBSLA, Huffington Post, NY Times