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Health Officials Seek to Dispense Facts on LA, NY Meningitis Cases

Health officials are speaking out about the recent meningitis cases across the country in an effort to educate the public about the latest outbreak. After incorrectly giving the press news that West Hollywood attorney Brett Shaad had been taken off life support on Friday, West Hollywood Councilman John Duran also speculated about where he might have contracted the disease.

The L.A. Times reports: Meningitis

Shaad was declared legally brain dead from the disease Friday. His family took him off life support at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

"The doctors don't know where or how Brett contracted meningitis," Ashford said....

...Shaad was declared legally brain dead from the disease Friday. His family took him off life support at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

"The doctors don't know where or how Brett contracted meningitis," Ashford said.

Some of the facts regarding meningitis and this particular case:

"This is not a disease transmittable mainly by sexual contact," said Dr. Parveen Kaur of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "It's spread by respiratory droplets, which means you can be sitting and having a prolonged conversation with somebody and spread the disease without having sex. It can also be transmitted through saliva and intimate activities."

...Many people who have bacterial meningitis "are asymptomatic carriers who themselves are not ill," said Dr. Otto Yang, a UCLA medical professor and expert on infectious diseases. "This is extremely preventable with vaccinations: People who were in contact with the person who died should seriously consider it."

Los Angeles County officials have not determined whether Shaad was afflicted with the same strain that killed gay men in New York, Ashford said.

Shaad, who graduated from Boston College and attended Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, would take long weekend trips abroad with friends, to destinations as far flung as Colombia, Brazil, Hawaii and Asia, Ashford said. "He'd been to China in the two weeks prior to his death."

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is also offering free vaccines. Info here.

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  1. I apologize for my comments from yesterday. I was completely wrong about meningitis. I didn't know what I was talking about, and I spouted off my usual self-loathing rhetoric without checking any facts. Again, my sincere apologies to all who read Towleroad for having to put up with my douchiness.

    Posted by: Rick | Apr 15, 2013 9:23:51 AM

  2. Meningitis has nothing to do with sex, let alone sexuality. Stop playing identity politics with illnesses. No illness is sexuality-specific.

    I think the gay community enjoys illnesses. You enjoy playing the victim card, you enjoy being perceived as victims, and you enjoy the taxpayer's money that is given to gay groups under the AIDS funding umbrella.

    Posted by: Adam | Apr 15, 2013 9:33:52 AM

  3. Get a life... AND a clue.

    Monday Morning Idiot.

    Posted by: Pete N SFO | Apr 15, 2013 10:14:06 AM

  4. @Adam - While meningitis is certainly not a sexually transmitted disease, the reality is it can be spread through sexual contact. So to say it has nothing to do with sex is just...wrong. You're wrong. Yes, the gay community enjoys the victim card. It enjoyed watching friends decimated by AIDS in the 1980s while their own government ignored the issue until it started to impact a wider community. If you're mad about AIDS money, blame your government who waited nearly a decade to do anything about it and ignored the tragic deaths of so many.

    Oh. And go f*** yourself.

    Posted by: Fancy Pants | Apr 15, 2013 10:44:13 AM

  5. @ Fancy Pants- I second that.

    Posted by: Booka | Apr 15, 2013 10:53:53 AM

  6. @ Fancy Pants - are thirds allowed ??

    Posted by: BillinSonoma | Apr 15, 2013 11:02:16 AM

  7. @Adam--Think about what activities you might do that are most likely to lead to transmission of meningitis through saliva. I'm sure talking to someone could do that, but kissing him would up transmission chances quite a bit more. It's not about the sexual act as a vector, it's about sexual intimacy as a vector.

    All that being said, I think from a public health perspective that the cases and the eventual outbreak needed to be treated as not *just* a problem for the gay community. I had friends visiting NYC who thought the disease was, because of the early public health messaging, a sex-related disease, and therefore believed that if they didn't have sex or wore a condom that they would be protected. And the public can more easily just think it's a "gay sex" disease. It's just not that simple. Gay men do have intimate contact with bisexual men and sometimes even women, and associate with straight people too. It would seem that broadening the message and giving more information about it would be the smart approach to prevention.

    Posted by: Thomas | Apr 15, 2013 11:04:26 AM

  8. A news report this morning tried to stress this was not a "gay disease," which was admirable. But, heheh, I think that's like saying "Don't think of an elephant."

    In any event, there's apparently no word yet if the strain that's turned up in L.A. is the same as the one that spread far too widely in N.Y.

    I'm going to wait and learn a bit more before I decide on getting vaccinated. I don't have any intimate contact with anyone other than my boyfriend. So I'm not going to panic quite yet.

    Posted by: Zlick | Apr 15, 2013 12:34:13 PM

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