Should We Panic About the Deadly Strain of Meningitis Hitting the Gay Community?
Last December, my friend Michael stopped me before we left his apartment in Paris. He was moving back to Brooklyn the following week and had received an urgent message from his friend who lived there: some gay men had died from a new strain of meningitis, a nasty bug that invades your brain and spinal cord and causes headaches, neck stiffness, bouts of vomiting, and, occasionally, death. In San Francisco, the government waswarning gay men to get vaccinated if they planned to travel to New York City, especially Brooklyn.
We weren’t too worried—this wasn’t the 80s, when the authorities turned a blind eye to the AIDS epidemic and dismissed it as a “gay disease.” If the New York City Department of Health knew there was a potentially deadly plague sweeping the city, they’d surely shoot the bugger in the butt before it grew into a gay-killing monster.
Months later, the monster is still alive. Four more men have fallen ill in New York City, bringing the number of infections to 22 and death toll to seven since 2010, and similar cases have appeared in West Hollywood, California. Just last Saturday, Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old lawyer, died of meningitis after slipping into a coma—he’s one of 13 men in LA who’ve been killed by the disease in the past 15 months. (It’s unknown how many of these men were gay.)