Update: SDSU Student Stricken With Meningitis Still On Life Support
Friday, October 17, 2014
UPDATE: 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17: University clarifies announcement about student's death
SDSU spokesman Greg Block clarified Friday evening that Sara Stelzer, 18, remains on life support so her organs can be donated. Friday morning, the university had released a statement saying that officials had spoken to Stelzer's family and confirmed that she had died.
This is the statement that Block made Friday night:
"The university has been supporting and is in ongoing communication with Sara's family to monitor her condition. The family informed us (Thursday night) that they had decided to say farewell to their daughter and they gave us permission to put out a statement this morning to that end. There was a possibility that Sara would be kept on life support for a short time while the hospital looked for recipients of some of her vital organs. Our message this morning was acting in accordance with the family's wishes to offer condolences to our university community and provide information to our grieving students.
Block made the statement after U-T San Diego confirmed with county health officials that Stelzer was still on life support.
UPDATE: 10:28 a.m., Oct. 17: Student dies after contracting meningitis
The San Diego State University student diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis died early Friday, university officials said.
Sara Stelzer, 18, was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms Tuesday.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our students to this terrible illness," SDSU Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Rivera said. "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. It is always difficult when a young life is lost, especially when that person is part of our SDSU family."
Students are being offered counseling through SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services. They can be reached at (619) 594-5220.
Stelzer graduated in June from Moorpark High School in Ventura County and was a freshman at SDSU. People who knew her — and some who didn't — took to social media to comment on her death. Her death particularly hit hard the San Diego State community.
The Conejo Valley YMCA, where Stelzer had been a youth and government delegate, remembered her on their Facebook page:
A student at San Diego State University is critically ill with bacterial meningitis, and school officials said as many as 400 other students may have been exposed at two fraternity parties last week.
The student is an 18-year-old woman who lives on campus and is not employed, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency said. She was admitted to a hospital Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are symptoms associated with meningococcal disease:
• Stiff neck
• Increased sensitivity to light
The student may have exposed others to the bacteria between Oct. 5 and Oct. 14. Those at highest risk include members of the Kappa Delta sorority, attendees of a party at Alpha Epsilon Pi on Oct. 8 and attendees of a party at Delta Sigma Phi on Oct. 9, said Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein, director of SDSU’s Student Health Services.
“The health and safety of our students is our highest priority, and we are working closely with health officials to identify those who may have been exposed,” said Eric Rivera, SDSU vice president student affairs.
San Diego County has reported six cases of meningitis this year, including one that resulted in the death of a high school student. The county has had an average of 10 cases a year over the past five years.
The meningococcus bacteria is transmitted through close “face-to-face” or oral contact, like kissing, sharing a glass or even sneezing on someone.
“While meningococcal disease can be serious and deadly, it is not spread through casual contact. Therefore, the risk to those who were not in close, direct contact is minimal,” said Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer.
Help For SDSU Students
SDSU Student Health Services extended its hours Thursday until 6 p.m. to provide antibiotics to individuals who may have been exposed.
For more information: Call (619) 594-4325 and press 2 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Students can also go to the Student Health Services website or contact their personal healthcare provider.
Lichtenstein said early symptoms include high fever, headaches and a stiff neck. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be two to 10 days, according to the county public health agency.
“We're treating students with the exposure preventatively. But we're also advising them if they develop any of those symptoms, don't come to us, don't go to their family doctor, don't go to an urgent care center. They need to be seen in an emergency room where a more complete evaluation of possible meningitis can be made,” Lichtenstein said.
It is recommended that students who are believed to have had close contact with the ill student, but are not exhibiting any symptoms, receive a preventative antibiotic treatment.
A vaccine is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease and is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age, including a booster for those entering college if they received their last dose prior to age 15, the public health agency said.
KPBS staffers Gina Diamante and Brooke Ruth contributed to this report. Associated Press and City News Service also contributed.
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