SDSU student dies of meningitis; 400 potentially exposed

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A San Diego State University official said Friday he was deeply saddened by the death of a freshman student from meningococcal meningitis.

Sara Stelzer, an 18-year-old from Moorpark in Ventura County, died Thursday after having been admitted to a hospital Tuesday.

“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,” said Eric Rivera, SDSU’s vice president of student affairs. “It is always difficult when a young life is lost, especially when that person is part of our SDSU family.”

He said SDSU officials will do all they can to support the young woman’s family and the campus community.

“We know our students will come together to support one another but also want them to know that counseling services are available and we encourage students to contact Counseling and Psychological services, if needed,” Rivera said. “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sara’s family and friends.”

The Counseling and Psychological Services office can be reached by phone at (619) 594-5220, or online at

After the serious nature of Sara’s illness was learned Thursday, university officials said students who might have had contact with her recently were being notified, and those who had close contact were urged to get antibiotics. Among those being contacted were all members of the Kappa Delta sorority and two fraternities were she attended parties on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 — Alpha Epsilon Pi and Delta Sigma Phi.

Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein, director of SDSU Student Health Services and director of clinical services, said about 300 to 400 students were being notified. The bacteria requires close contact to be transmitted between people, he said.

Students with questions can contact Student Health Services at (619) 594-4325 and press 2 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, visit, or contact their personal healthcare provider.

The county Health and Human Services Agency said 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, according to the HHSA. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two and 10 days.

County health officials said individuals who had close contact with the infected person should take antibiotics. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for individuals who were not in close contact with the infected person and does not have symptoms.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, a 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, health officials said.

According to Lichtenstein, people with such symptoms should immediately go to a hospital emergency room for treatment, not Student Health Services or a personal physician.

The HHSA said six cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in San Diego County this year, including a Patrick Henry High School student who died in February. On average, 10 cases have been reported annually over the past five years in the region.

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 HHSA said.

Categories: KUSI