LOS ANGELES — The brother of Brett Shaad, the 33-year-old West Hollywood man who died Saturday after contracting a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis, is lashing out over media coverage of his brother’s death.
In a statement released Monday, Brian Shaad said his brother’s death was made even more difficult on the family by false rumors and misinformation that was widely reported after West Hollywood city councilman John Duran addressed media outlets on Friday.
“At a time when we should have been focused totally on Brett’s care, our family spent a huge amount of time and energy trying to correct the news reports that resulted from Duran’s statements,” said Brian Shaad.
“Eight days have now passed since Brett’s first symptoms, and this still remains an isolated case. No words can describe the loss we just experienced, Brett was nothing but heart and he loved his family and his friends with an unconditional love we were privileged to experience. He will be deeply missed forever,” he said.
At a press conference last Friday, Duran identified Brett Shaad as the patient who had contracted bacterial meningitis, and warned the gay community of the potential spread of the disease. According to a report by Associated Press, Duran had said that Brett Shaad attended the White Party in Palm Springs the weekend of March 30, an event that attracts thousands of partygoers from all over the country for dancing and revelry.
Duran later said Brett Shaad was removed from life support and died on Friday afternoon. That account was reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday afternoon, citing sources in the county coroners office as confirmation.
In fact, Brett Shaad was declared brain dead on Friday, but remained on life support until Saturday evening. His family said Brett died at 6:42 p.m. on Saturday — more than five hours after the Los Angeles Times report.
“As many of you may be aware there has been huge amount of misinformation about the time, circumstances and details of my brother’s death driven by a politically-motivated council member and inaccurate media reporting,” said Brian Shaad, in a statement.
“This was started by sensationalist and erroneous public statements made by Councilman John Duran of West Hollywood, which were then reported by Ari Bloomekatz of the Los Angeles Times, and subsequently put out internationally by the Associated Press.
“This information was issued by Duran on pure rumor and innuendo. At no point was our family contacted to confirm the information publicly stated by Councilman Duran — and at no point did Ari Bloomekatz of the LA Times or the Associated Press reach out to our family to confirm the facts.
“The irresponsibility of Councilman Duran, the LA Times and the Associated Press in announcing the death of my brother before we even had the chance to tell family members and his friends outside of Los Angeles is outrageous. There are a number steps we will be taking to ensure that politically-driven actions by politicians and reckless reporting by the media can never do this to another grieving family again.”
Duran claimed he did not state that Shaad had attended the White Party, but mentioned the event as an example of a place where large groups of gay men gather and might risk infection, according to Wehoville.com.
LGBTQ Nation first reported this story on Saturday morning, publishing the Associated Press version that indicated Brett Shaad was still on life support.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial meningitis is not spread by casual contact, however kissing could cause transmission. Symptoms typically develop within 3-7 days after exposure, and include the sudden onset of a stiff neck, fever, and headache.
A CDC spokesperson said catching the illness isn’t always a death sentence, but bacterial meningitis is usually severe. Those who survive might suffer serious complications including brain damage and hearing loss.
In the U.S., about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred between 2003 and 2007, the CDC reports.