Friends and loved ones on Friday were mourning a San Diego State University freshman from Moorpark who was left brain dead after contracting meningococcal meningitis.
The 18-year-old woman, identified by friends and the university as Sara Stelzer, was admitted to a San Diego hospital Tuesday morning with flu-like symptoms, according to a statement from the county Health & Human Services Agency.
San Diego State officials issued the following statement of condolence on the passing of the teenager:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our students to this terrible illness,” SDSU Vice President of Student Affairs Eric Rivera said in a statement. “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.”
But on Friday evening the University clarified their remarks to indicate that while Stelzer had been declared brain dead, she was still on life-support while the hospital looked for recipients for some of her vital organs.
“The university has been supporting and in ongoing communication with Sara’s family to monitor her condition. The family informed us last 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.”
Stelzer, a freshman studying pre-communications, lived on campus at SDSU and was unemployed, authorities said.
A post on the Facebook page of the Conejo Valley YMCA, where Stelzer was involved, said she “was an amazing young woman who was always so positive and full of life.”
HHSA and university officials were working to notify students and staff who may have been exposed to the bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis, between Oct. 5 and Oct. 14.
Health officials emphasized that while meningococcal disease can be fatal, it is not spread through casual contact.
“Therefore, the risk to those who were not in close, direct contact is minimal,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health officer of San Diego County.
Stelzer had attended homecoming activities last weekend at her alma mater, Moorpark High School, officials said.
The school district later worked with the Ventura County Public Health Department to identify people who may have been at risk, Superintendent Kelli Hays said in a statement. Those people were seen by a physician to start antibiotics as a precautionary measure.
“We are extremely saddened by the loss of (Sara),” the statement said. “She left a meaningful mark on Moorpark High School and we will continue to honor her memory.”
According to health officials, Neisseria meningitidis can be spread by sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes or pipes, or water bottles; kissing; and living in close quarters.
Two to 10 days typically elapse between exposure to meningococcal disease and the onset of symptoms.
Those symptoms include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and a rash that does not blanch under pressure.
Six cases of the disease have been reported in San Diego County in 2014, including the death of a high school student, HHSA said. In the past five years, an average of 10 cases have been reported annually in the county.
KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.