As meningitis fears rise, foundation to offer free vaccine

West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, center, holds back his emotion while mentioning about his good friend who is in coma caused by new meningitis strain.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Responding to fears of a deadly meningitis outbreak among gay men, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced Sunday that it will begin offering free vaccines to help counter a spread of the potentially deadly disease.

Worry over a meningitis outbreak started last week after 33-year-old Brett Shaad, a West Hollywood lawyer, died of the disease on Friday. Shaad became critically ill shortly after he attended an annual Easter weekend gathering of gay men in Palm Springs, according to the foundation.

The vaccine, offered to anyone believing they are at risk, will be given starting Monday at three locations: the foundation’s West Hollywood pharmacy at 8212 Santa Monica Blvd.; its Hollywood pharmacy at 6210 Sunset Blvd.; and its wellness center, at 1300 N. Vermont Ave., Suite 407.

Local health officials are concerned because Shaad’s death occurred after reports of meningitis striking several gay men in New York City, prompting fears of an outbreak there spread through sex.


An L.A. County coroner’s investigator said Friday that an autopsy had not yet been done on Shaad, but that he had meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated with antibiotics if identified quickly. Symptoms include sudden fever, severe headache and sensitivity to light.

People in close contact with someone who has meningitis are at higher risk of contracting the disease, though it is not as contagious as the common cold.

There is a vaccine, but it is generally recommended only for certain populations, including adolescents.


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