WeHo Meningitis Patient Dies After Being Taken Off Life Support: Family

By Samantha Tata and Melissa Pamer
|  Sunday, Apr 14, 2013  |  Updated 11:38 AM PDT
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Warning About Bacterial Meningitis Sounded by WeHo, Health Officials

Brett Shaad, Facebook

Brett Shaad, 33, died after being taken off life support on Saturday, April 13, 2013. The West Hollywood lawyer was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis days before.

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Warning About Bacterial Meningitis Sounded by WeHo, Health Officials

A 33-year-old gay man who was diagnosed with meningitis this week was hospitalized, in a coma and has been declared brain dead. Physicians and politicians are pointing to an Easter weekend "White Party" in Palm Springs as a possible source of the man's infection. Beverly White reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 12, 2013.
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A West Hollywood man who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis this week was taken off life support Saturday night, the family announced in a Facebook post.

"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," Brian Shaad, the victim’s brother, said in a statement.

"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 Shaad, 33, was taken off life support at 6:24 p.m. and died about 20 minutes later, the family's statement noted.

On Friday evening, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran tweeted that Shaad had died, but his family told NBC4 Saturday that was not true.

Shaad’s sudden illness prompted public health and West Hollywood officials to sound an alarm, warning members of the public to protect themselves against meningococcal infection, an illness caused by bacteria or virus that can be fatal.

In a news conference Friday afternoon, Duran said one of his longtime supporters had been diagnosed with meningitis two days prior, was hospitalized and in a coma. Shaad was declared brain dead.

The victim attended an annual Palm Springs event known as the White Party, which took place over Easter weekend and draws thousands of gay men from across the country to the desert city, Duran said.

"If this resident was in fact in attendance at the White Party, it raises the issue, so we want to get the word out to any gay men that were at the White Party, that if they have any of these symptoms, go see their physician immediatly," Duran said at the news conference.

Duran said he didn't want to be alarmist, but wanted gay men and others to be on alert for signs of the disease, which can initially resemble the flu.

On Friday, the Equinox fitness club on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood sent a notice to members that a person who used the facility April 6 had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. The email stated that gym "members and staff are safe, we have taken all necessary safety precautions and we will continue to do everything we can to guarantee our members have the best fitness experience possible."

Dr. Maxine Liggins, area medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said people who think they may have been exposed should watch for a stiff neck, fever, headache, sometimes a rash, and generally not feeling well.

Duran suggested the West Hollywood case may be from a similar bacterial meningitis strain that circulated among gay men in New York City -- an outbreak that infected 22 people and has killed seven people since 2010.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials said they have not confirmed a direct connection between the Los Angeles-area case and the New York City strain.

Last month, Orange County health officials warned public schools about an outbreak of meningococcal infections in Tijuana that began in January.

A teen was being treated at UC Irvine Medical Center for Meningococcemia and had had all of her limbs amputated, prompting her parents to advocate for awareness about a vaccine that protects against the disease.

The bacteria -- Neisseria meningitidis -- that causes the bloodstream infection afflicting 18-year-old Kaitlyn Dobrow also causes meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of tissue around the brain and spinal cord, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infections from the bacteria can be spread from person to person through respiratory and throat secretions and are common in close quarters -- such as military barracks and college dormitories -- according to the CDC website. Person-to-person contact must be close – such as kissing, sex or sharing food – for the bacteria to spread.

Those who have been in close contact with a patient with meningococcal disease should be treated with antibiotics to prevent the illness from progressing, according to the CDC.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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