Two More Southern California Meningitis Deaths Come to Light - NBC Bay Area

Two More Southern California Meningitis Deaths Come to Light

The rare illness is most often spread through person-to-person contact such as kissing, sex, or sharing food.



    Days after a man died from meningitis, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation revealed that two other men died from the disease. Casey Hayden discussed his partner Rjay Spoon death on Tuesday. Another identified man who died was a San Diego student. Robert Kovacik reports from Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on April 16, 2013. (Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013)

    Two more recent Southern California bacterial meningitis deaths have come to light after the illness rapidly killed a West Hollywood man last week.

    Brett Shaad, 33, a West Hollywood attorney died on Saturday night. Officials in West Hollywood quickly alerted the gay community to the case of the sometimes deadly, contagious infection.

    The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is offering free meningitis vaccines, on Tuesday announced two previous deaths: Rjay Spoon, 30, of downtown Los Angeles died on Dec. 16; and an unidentified 30-year-old San Diego State University student who lived in Chula Vista died on Dec. 10.

    Adding to the fear of a potential outbreak is the fact that Shaad went to the White Party in Palm Springs, a dance party attended by thousands of gay men March 29 to April 1, the foundation said.

    Casey Hayden, who was Rjay Spoon's partner, said he woke up one night to find Spoon vomiting. Spoon's symptoms puzzled doctors until it was too late, he said.

    "We went to the hospital and the first thing they said it was was a drug overdose," Hayden told reporters Tuesday. "Then they said it was extremely advanced HIV, which was not the case. He was negative."

    A week later, Spoon was dead. He is pictured at right.

    At a news conference Tuesday, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran asked the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to reveal more information about infections. The department has said there were 13 cases of the disease in the county in 2013.

    Duran said New York City officials hesitated -- hoping to avoid a panic -- when they learned of a meningitis outbreak among gay men there.

    "Where they are now: seven dead New Yorkers, all gay men, and now recommending that all gay men in New York City get vaccinated," Duran said. "If we're going to just end up there anyway, why not just start now? So we don't have to get seven deaths to get there."

    Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding said he would "promise" to get information about the disease to NBC4 on Wednesday.

    Infections from the bacteria that causes meningitis 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.