California: Gay lawyer dies at 33 after contracting bacterial meningitis

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Officials in Los Angeles are warning gay sexually active men about a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis, following the death of a gay man in West Hollywood.

33-year-old Brett Shaad was taken off life support on Saturday evening, he was admitted to hospital on Wednesday, and quickly fell into a coma.

In a statement, the family said: “Brett was an extraordinary person,” Brian Shaad, his brother, continued. “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.”

West Hollywood Councilman John Duran saw Mr Shaad recently before he felt unwell.

“We don’t want to panic people,” Mr Duran said. “But we learned 30 years ago the consequences of delay in the response to AIDS.”

Mr Duran said he plans to introduce an urgency item on Monday to allocate $20,000 (£13,036) 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,” Mr Duran said.

Warning posters are now being placed in gyms around West Hollywood by LGBT community groups.

AP reports tests were being done to see if the strain of bacterial meningitis is similar to the meningococcal infections that have circulated among gay men in New York City – which has resulted in several deaths since 2010.

The bacteria is transmitted through secretions of the mouth, nose and throat, such as during kissing, but not casual contact or breathing the same air as an infected person.

Last September, New York’s health department issued a health alert for gay sexually active men and encouraged those at risk to get vaccinated.

The New York authorities are recommending vaccinations for gay men in the city who are either HIV positive, or HIV negative and non-monogamous.

Health officials in San Francisco issued a travel advisory to gay men travelling to New York last December.

Bacterial meningitis can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

The disease is rare, but people with HIV-weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infection.

Symptoms typically develop within three to seven days of exposure and can include stiff neck, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and an altered mental state, often confusion.