Exclusive: 2nd gay meningitis death revealed

April 16, 2013

Raising concerns that the fatal case of bacterial meningococcal meningitis disease that cost a West Hollywood man his life last week is only the tip of the iceberg, WeHo News learned this morning that another gay man has died of the illness.

Rjay Spoon, a Downtown LA resident and gay man, died of a bacterial meningococcal meningitis infection on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012.

Rjay Spoon, a Downtown LA resident and gay man, died of a bacterial meningococcal meningitis infection on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012.

In last week’s press conference, Dr. Maxine Liggins of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health told reporters present that 13 cases of the illness had been reported in LA County last year, but did not specify the number of gay victims nor how many of those infection s resulted in death.

According to Jim Key, the Director of Communications for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center (LAGLC), the county health department had not shared any of those numbers with that agency, either. “No, they haven’t said how many others were gay men or how many resulted in death. Dr. Liggins just said there was no outbreak until they could connect three incidences of it. Obviously, if there is any connection with the New York cases, that would be something we would want to know about here."

The health department was careful to not include mention of other cases in the press conference and the documents issued afterward, saying in a press release, “At this point in the investigation, Public Health has not identified any other cases of meningococcal meningitis associated with this patient, nor identified any linkage between this patient and outbreaks that have been reported in other areas of the country.” (Emphases ours).

The department of public health did not immediately respond to a request for information.

John Duran, a council member in West Hollywood who has taken hits for making a forceful case for vigilance toward and vaccination against meningitis in the gay community, told WeHo News, "I don't know why the health department is not being more forthcoming with their data, but it looks like there is a pattern they are not telling us about."

He passed along a note he received from a constituent, Scott Cook, that called the health department's efforts into question. "I'm not sure why the death of RJay Spoon a few months ago in December has not been included in the statistics. He did not reside within the city limits of West Hollywood, but nonetheless, was very much a part of the WeHo family and community. I just thought this might be of interest and clearly shows the death of Brett Shaad is not an isolated incident."

Mr. Spoon and his partner Casey Hayden.

The health department declined to advise people at risk of catching the illness to get a vaccination; filling in that gap has been AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), who provided 850 vaccinations yesterday, Michael Weinstein told WeHo News this morning.

Mr. Spoon’s partner, Casey Hayden’s, Facebook page said this about his passing in December:

I am so incredibly touched and amazed by the amount of love and support that you are all showing us and each other. It is truly comforting to know that we are all going through this together. Rjay and I are blessed to have so many beautiful people in our lives and the thing that gives me most comfort is the fact that his passing will not separate us but teach us only to love stronger and harder than ever, just like he did.

We have found out some more information. The health department has confirmed that he had been infected bacterial Meningitis and would not have known how sick he was. He could have been exposed anywhere from 1 to 10 days to it before he started showing symptoms, but by then it was only 20 hours before it may have made his brain seize and claim his beautiful life.

If anyone has any information as to where he could have been exposed, the health department needs to know to help with this case. And again thank you all so much for everything. I know your hearts are hurting too over the loss of our beautiful, sexy man who is now our angel.

Mr. Spoon was a leasing broker at an apartment complex in Los Angeles, Equity Residential’s Pegasus Apartments. In a recent article on their web site, the National Apartment Association’s Paul Bergeron said this about Mr. Spoon. “Rjay is a shining example of an associate who gets it,” Grant continues. “His approach of using the same information that is available to the customer to build value in the renewal decision was flawless. The great thing about technology is that it can work to the benefit of both parties when you take the time to truly immerse yourself in your market—not only physically, but virtually.” 

The LA memorial for Rjay Spoon was January 3 on the rooftop patio of the Pegasus Apartments downtown. He had a funeral and was laid to rest in his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, in late December.