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Meningitis warning: Officials urge testing, calm after death of West Hollywood man

Brett Shaad
Brett Shaad
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Update 12:3o a.m.:  The brother of a West Hollywood man who was declared brain dead Friday after becoming ill with meningitis earlier in the week was taken off of life support Saturday evening. 

Brian Shaad, the brother of West Hollywood lawyer Brett Shaad, announced Brett had been taken off life support Saturday night, the Associated Press reported. 

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced Sunday it will offer free meningitis vaccines at several L.A. locations beginning Monday. 

Tests were being done to determine if the strain of illness is similar to the one that circulated among gay men in New York City and infected 22 people, resulting in seven fatalities, since 2010

Update 10:32 a.m.: A 33-year-old West Hollywood attorney sickened by bacterial meningitis earlier this week has been declared brain dead amid warnings to sexually active gay men about the deadly strain of illness.

West Hollywood Councilman John Duran said officials don't want to cause panic, but are taking an active stance in announcing the case to avoid the to avoid delays in testing and treatment.

A family spokeswoman said Brett Shaad was declared brain dead Friday afternoon but remained on life support. That corrected a statement made earlier Friday by Duran who said Shaad had been removed from life support and died.

A news conference was held Friday warning of the potentially deadly health threat. Duran described Shaad as being "robust and healthy" prior to Monday, when he began to feel sick. By Thursday, he was in a coma. 

Shaad's case may be related to a similar strain that circulated among gay men in New York City, killing seven people since 2010, according to Duran.

"Vaccinations are not being widely recommended in Los Angeles County," according to ABC LA. However, the L.A. Times reports that late Friday, "the medical director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center...called on county health officials to make the meningitis vaccine available free to any gay or bisexual man who wants it."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bacterial meningitis is not spread by casual contact, however kissing could cause transmission. Symptoms typically develop within 3-7 days after exposure, and include the sudden onset of:

Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and altered mental status may also be present. Visit the CDC's page on "Bacterial Meningitis" for more on:

Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible. 

Appropriate antibiotic treatment of the most common types of bacterial meningitis should reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to below 15%, although the risk remains higher among young infants and the elderly.