UPDATE: West Hollywood Gripped By Meningitis Scare, Following Death of Young Man

A day after a West Hollywood attorney was declared brain dead after he exhibited symptoms of bacterial meningitis, residents of West Hollywood, Calif. have become increasingly concerned about a spread of the outbreak of the potentially deadly bacterial infection.


On Friday Brett Shaad (pictured), a 33-year-old lawyer based in West Hollywood, was declared brain dead just days after friends described him as fit and healthy.


Brian Shaad, the brother of Brett Shaad, issued the following statement regarding the family’s decision to remove Brett from life support Saturday night:

“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.

“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.”

Brett was being treated at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills, CA. He was removed from life support tonight at 6:24 pm and passed away at 6:42 pm.

A spokesperson for the family, Elizabeth Ashford, issued the following statement:

“The Shaad family asks for privacy at this painful time, which has been made more devastating by irresponsible and inaccurate reports on the circumstances of Brett’s death. The family wants, and will pursue, answers for how and why this happened.”

Queerty previously wrote:

As several media outlets have reported, Shaad attended the White Party in Palm Springs, Calif. during the weekend of March 30, but there has been no definite confirmation that he contracted the bacteria during that event.

The disturbing news comes a month after the New York City Department of Health, responding to a number of reported cases, urged men who have intimate contact with other men to get vaccinated against the bacteria. The New York Times reports “at least 22 men have contracted meningitis in New York since 2010, 13 of them this year, and 7 have died.”

During a press conference on Friday, Dr. Maxine E. Liggins, with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, advised residents to be look for early signs of meningococcal meningitis. These include a severe headache and stiff neck. If detected early the disease, an infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, can be treated with antibiotics. She noted that  it can also intensify quickly.

John Duran, a West Hollywood city councilman and one of the few openly H.I.V.-positive elected officials in the country, says in a statement: “The lesson we learned 30 years ago in the early days of H.I.V. 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. So even with an isolated case here, we need to sound the alarms, especially given the cases in New York.”

News of Shaad’s infection has shaken residents of West Hollywood, who quickly mobilized to use forms of social media to raise awareness of the potential epidemic while city officials plan to partner with gay advocacy groups to post notices in West Hollywood gyms.

LGBTPOV‘s Karen Ocamb reports Duran as being concerned about the availability of sufficient vaccine to prevent the spread, if requested by people at risk. “We’re going to be working with our partners at the Gay and Lesbian Center, as well as the pharmacies in town, to make sure we have – if necessary – enough vaccines to get it out there to prevent the spread of meningitis,” he says.

According to Huffington Post, Duran plans to introduce an urgency item on Monday to appropriate $20,000 for vaccines, for those who can’t afford them otherwise. “I think the county health department is dragging its feet and we don’t have the luxury of waiting,” he said. The vaccine will prevent invasive meningococcal disease from taking root but does not treat the disease if a person is already infected.