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At least two gay men have died of meningitis in L.A. in the past 15 months

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – At least two gay men are among the 13 people who have died of meningitis in Los Angeles County in the past 15 months.

Brett Shaad, 33, of West Hollywood died Saturday night after being removed from life support. The lawyer fell ill on Monday, April 8, and didn’t go to an emergency room until Wednesday, April 10. He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the lining around the brain, and lapsed into a coma on Thursday and was later declared brain dead.

This week, WeHo News reported that Rjay Spoon, 30, a leasing broker for an apartment complex in Los Angeles and a resident of Downtown L.A., died of meningitis on Dec. 16, 2012. Spoon’s partner, Casey Hayden, posted information on Facebook that his loved one had died of the bacterial disease and asked for information about how Spoon might have been exposed to meningitis.

Health officials in Los Angeles County have not divulged how many of the 13 meningitis deaths are from the LGBT community. It is important to note that meningitis can affect all communities.

Health officials say that meningitis is not a sexually transmitted disease, but is contracted through intimate contact with an infected person. The bacteria is spread through kissing or sharing food, for example.

In recent years, more than seven men have died in New York City from an unnamed strain of meningitis, and California officials are worried that an outbreak could occur here. Tijuana has seen an outbreak of meningitis since December.

Typically, a victim of meningitis gets a fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and complains of a stiff neck. Then a rash spreads rapidly, leading to an inflammation of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord. Death can come within hours, if the victim has not sought treatment quickly enough. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, and a vaccine is available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were about 500 deaths out of 4,100 meningitis cases between 2003 and 2007. Survivors can suffer brain damage and hearing loss, among other consequences.