As several LGBT blogs are reporting, young, seemingly fit gay West Hollywood attorney, Brett Shaad, is brain dead from bacterial meningitis and for the time being is on life support. At present, it is not known if he contracted it via someone from New York City where there has been an out break of bacterial meningitis in the gay community.
I want to underscore how critical it is that members of the LGBT community take this situation seriously and get the vaccine against the disease.
This story sends shivers through me and revives old nightmares. And for good reason. And to me, it is criminal that the vaccine is not widely recommended. The CDC in its wisdom believes that the risk is low and, therefore, the cost is not merited. Stated another way, since the number of individuals who die each year is low, the CDC is willing to write off their lives as a cost control measure.
Anyone who has seen this disease first hand would never be willing to just write off a given amount of lives as an acceptable reaction. I've seen the disease up close and it's simply horrifying.
As long time readers of my personal blog likely recall, one of my daughters was stricken with bacterial meningitis almost 14 years ago and very nearly died. While she had a miracle recovery - she was actually written up in the hospital's magazine after the roughly six month ordeal - many do not.
What is the most frightening about the disease is the speed with which it strikes. Often, by the time discernible symptoms are displaying (most noticeably a rash like phenomenon where capillaries in the skin begin to rupture), time is almost out to save the victim from either death or horrible impairment.
In the case of my daughter, another 10 to 15 minutes in getting her to the hospital and she probably would have died. As it was, the hospital ER staff struggled to stabilize her and thankfully we were at a hospital with top trauma facilities and with staff who immediately recognized what they were dealing with.
I can still hear the doctor telling me to call my former wife and tell her to get to the hospital immediately, no shower, etc., because he did not know if they were going to be able to save my daughter.
Towleroad has some details on this sad situation and the, in my view, irresponsible manner in which the medical authorities are reacting. Here are highlights:
Brett Shaad was declared brain dead but remained on life support Friday afternoon, said Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for Shaad's family. She declined to release further details.
West Hollywood Councilman John Duran incorrectly said he had been taken off life support earlier on Friday, the wire adds:
Duran, who saw Shaad last weekend, described the openly gay man as being "robust and healthy" prior to Monday, when he began to feel sick.
On Wednesday, he went into the emergency room. By Thursday, he was in a coma.
Tests are underway on the strain of meningitis to determine if it is related to the deadly strain in NYC, against which health officials have urged sexually active gay men to be vaccinated.
It has not been determined how Shaad contracted meningitis. Shaad's family criticized Duran after he mentioned that Shaad attended the recent White Party in Palm Springs. Shaad also recently visited an Equinox gym in WeHo, the AP adds.
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.
More info on meningitis and how it is spread here at the CDC.
According to WABC: "Vaccinations are not being widely recommended in Los Angeles County. But community agencies such as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center are urging individuals to take precautions."
Added Duran: "We don't want to panic people. But we learned 30 years ago the consequences of delay in the response to AIDS. We are sounding the alarm that sexually active gay men need to be aware that we have a strain of meningitis that is deadly on our hands."
Our thoughts go out to Shaad's friends and family.
Likewise, my thoughts go out to Brett Shaad's family and friends. I came within minutes of facing what they have had overwhelm them out of the blue.
As an added note, some individuals are carriers of the disease and never show or develop symptoms themselves. In my daughter's case, they were never able to track her infection to anyone in particular, meaning that whoever had the bacteria was a carrier. If in doubt, go to your doctor and get the vaccine even if you have to pay for it out of pocket.
More on meningitis is also here at Wikipedia.