Jan. 20, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. - Following are a selection of quotes from today's media gathering regarding Alisa Lewis.
Dr. Peter Dietrich, Medical Director of the University Health Service
I want to emphasize that this is a tragic illness. Our hearts go out to her family and friends. The actual risk to exposure is extremely low to others.
It's a sad loss when someone who has been previously healthy succumbs to an illness like this. I want to emphasis at this point that we don't know the definitive cause of her illness. We have been in touch with the physicians at Kaiser that had been treating Alisa and based on her early presentation and clinical portion and unfortunate deterioration, we are treating this as a case of bacterial meningitis. We are awaiting final culture confirmation of that. We're checking on a regular basis with board of health officials and infectious disease experts. We felt that it was important that we treat it as bacterial meningitis because it does have some public health ramifications.
It is important to emphasize that bacterial meningitis is relatively rare. Meningitis itself is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal column. It can cause infection within the blood stream and a very severe illness. And, it can be fatal. I should emphasize again that it is a rare condition. There's about 25 to 100 or so cases in the United States each year. Exposure to meningococcal meningitis and the potential to get infected requires prolonged, close intimate contact. Casual contact, such as being in the dining facility or sharing a training facility or weight room are not risks. The risks are more substantial for people such as partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates --- kissing, sharing eating utensils, sharing drinking cups, things of that nature, where you have the opportunity to have oral or nasal secretions. The meningococcal meningitis does not last outside of the body very long, not more than a couple of minutes. Casual contact is not something we worry about from a public health or contagious perspective. This is not a cause for a general health panic, and we have been in contact with the public health and infectious disease experts to make sure we're doing a case investigation, to look and see what Alisa might have been exposed to and where it might have come from. Sometimes, we're not able to identify a cause, but nonetheless, it's important for us to do that.
We are also going to be launching a contact investigation, going back for a period of time and talking with people who have had close and intimate contact with Alisa to determine who needs prophylactic antibiotics. The good thing about this bacteria is that if you did fall into camp of having close or intimate exposure with a patient with meningococcal meningitis, a single dose of antibiotics is effective to prevent the onset of infection and disease. Yesterday, our team physicians met with the coaches and the women's basketball team, as well as the men's basketball team, to determine who had close contact and to provide antibiotic treatment. The women's basketball team we elected to consider as close contact because they do spend an awful lot of time together. We ended up erring on the side of caution and made sure they received appropriate treatment. Anyone else with close and intimate contact received treatment at the team meeting. We're going to continue our investigation a little bit further today because there are going to be more people who are going to require treatment down the road. Today, we're going to provide a fair amount of information to the coaches and other athletes.
Cal women's basketball head coach Caren Horstmeyer
This is a horrible, horrible tragedy. For someone so young to have such a short life, my staff and myself feel that it's a terrible loss for her family, our team and for everybody.
This is a young woman who touched everybody's life in a positive way. She was vibrant. I've coached many good people. I can honestly say that she is the nicest kid that I've ever coached. To see something happen like this is tragic. My staff and myself feel horrible for the family, members of the team and the community, as well. We are going to be here for her family, our team and anybody who needs us to be there.
This is not only a young woman who we're going to all miss, but a young woman who majored in social welfare, and that's what she could have given. She was an extremely great role model. She always had a smile on her face. She was always playing with everybody's kids. This is somebody that the community is going to miss because she would have made an incredible impact out in the community as a social worker. She was a great kid.
I'd like to read to you a quote that was her favorite quote. I'll probably lose it. "Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die today." She had that in her room, which she put up two or three months ago, and she has this in our media guide. This was her favorite quote. She was a very special young woman.