Students seek protection after meningitis case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Students seek protection after meningitis case

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Medical experts put an emphasis on protection after a San Diego State student loses her life to meningitis. 

Sara Stelzer is for now being kept on life support because of the possibility that her organs may be donated. Stelzer's case has prompted hundreds of students to seek antibiotics for themselves.

It's hard for some to imagine that someone healthy, vibrant and just 18-years-old - could end up in a hospital bed and on life support in just a matter of days.

Stelzer was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. A bacterial form of the disease that infects the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Doctor William Tseng of Kaiser Permanente says they don't know why it spreads so quickly once inside the body.

“The mortality is up to 50 percent. We don't know why the rates are so quick but it affects very vital organs and that can lead to higher mortality,” Dr. Tseng said.

He says about 10 percent of the population are actually carriers of the bacteria but may never show signs or symptoms.

The symptoms are similar to the flu. However, there are some more abnormal warning signs including a stiff neck, a severe headache, confusion and sensitivity to light.

The disease spreads through saliva. Those most at risk are those who come in close contact with someone who has it through kissing or sharing glasses.

Dr. Tseng recommends getting a vaccine against the disease at age 11 and then again at 16.

The school revealed Stelzer had been vaccinated against meningitis, although it's unclear when.

“Vaccinations are not 100 percent, it's about 90 percent effective. She could [have] fall in that 10 percent,” Dr. Tseng said.

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