Correction: An SDSU press release Friday incorrectly stated that Stelzer had died. The university later clarified that she was brain dead and being kept on life support pending possible donation of her organs. She has since been removed from life support and her organs were donated to help save several lives.
East County News Service
October 17, 2014 (San Diego) – An 18-year-old freshman at San Diego State University has died of meningococcal meningitis. Sara Stelzer from Moorpark, who was studying pre-communications, passed away at a local hospital after flu-like symptoms, SDSU announced today.
According to CBS News in Los Angeles, Stelzer was a member of a sorority at SDSU and had recently attended two fraternity parties and her sister’s 21st birthday party. She was also in Moorpark over the weekend for homecoming at Moorpark High School. County health officials are seeking those who have been in close contact with Stelzer and may have been exposed.
University officials confirmed that Stelzer was vaccinated against meningitis, 10 News reports. The vaccine protects against most strains of bacterial meningitis, but not all.
Vice President of Student Affairs, Eric Rivera says the university is “deeply saddened” by the student’s demise. “After speaking with her family, we know that Sara was a vibrant young woman who loved San Diego State, her friends and the time she spent at our university.” He added, “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sara’s family and friends.”
Students have been offered emergency counseling through SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services and are encouraged to contact them if they need support. They can be reached at 619-594-5220, or at their website at http://studentaffairs.sdsu.edu/cps/index.html.
The university has been working with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services to identify and notify people who may have been in close contact with Stelzer, says Natalia Elko, media relations officer at SDSU. The university also notified the entire SDSU community, providing details about symptoms and where to go if they believe they had contact with Stelzer or are experiencing symptoms of meningitis.
According to the County Health Department, the bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes or pipes, or water bottles; kissing; and living in close quarters. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days.
Individuals who have had close contact with the infected person should receive antibiotics to prevent possible infection. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for individuals who were not in close contact with the infected person and does not have symptoms. They should be aware of possible symptoms and make sure they have received the recommended vaccination against the disease.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and/or a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone with potential exposure who develops any of these symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider or emergency room for an evaluation for possible meningococcal disease.
The National Institute of Health website indicates that a 20-year study of heart and lung donations from donors who died of bacterial meningitis found no transmission of the disease, thus transplants from people with bacterial meningitis are deemed safe.