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Meningitis Hits WeHo, Councilman Pleads: 'Don't call this a gay disease'

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The death this weekend of a young man diagnosed with meningitis has the City of West Hollywood alarmed about a potentially widespread outbreak of the dangerous illness.33-year-old Brett Shaad died Saturday night when his family opted to remove him from life support.

Shaad first felt ill Monday, April 8, and by Wednesday was at the ER, according to the Associated Press. He went into a coma Thursday, and on Friday his doctors declared Shaad brain dead.

On Friday, the City of West Hollywood spoke out about the dangers of meningitis, and urged locals to be aware of their potential for infection.

In response to Shaad's illness and death, Sunday the AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced they will offer free meningitis vaccines starting Monday, April 15th at its AHF Pharmacy locations in West Hollywood (8212 Santa Monica Blvd.) and Hollywood (6210 Sunset Blvd.) and its AHF Hollywood Men’s Wellness Center to anyone who thinks that they are at risk or have had exposure.

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AHF held a teleconference Sunday to discuss the vaccination program, during which time West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran pleaded: “Please don't call this a gay disease," adding: Please don’t bring up sex,” reports NBC Los Angeles.

The CDC explains how bacterial meningitis is transmitted:

The germs that cause bacterial meningitis can be contagious. Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing). Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Duran's plea is in response to the immediate parallels drawn between this meningitis outbreak and the early years of the HIV virus and AIDS, as well as the fact that officials say Shaad likely contracted the ultimately fatal illness "at the annual White Party, a gathering of thousands of gay men in Palm Springs over Easter weekend." Additionally, a recent outbreak of meningitis in New York was centered in the gay community.

However, "Duran and doctors with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that it isn't only the gay community who are affected," when it comes to Shaad's death and the presence of meningitis in West Hollwyood.