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UC Berkeley Press Release

Bacterial meningitis cause of UC Berkeley women's basketball player's death

Alisa Marie Lewis
Alisa Marie Lewis
(UC Berkeley photo)
• Team physician Dr. Chad Roghair discusses health risk posed by bacterial meningitis

– A 20-year-old University of California, Berkeley women's basketball player died Monday, January 19, of bacterial meningitis. The cause of death was confirmed by the results of tests received on January 21.

Alisa Marie Lewis, a junior from Spokane, Wash., died at Kaiser Medical Center, Oakland. She was taken to the emergency room early in the morning complaining of a severe headache, rash and flu-like symptoms.

The campus's athletic department will host a memorial service for Lewis on Thursday, Jan. 22 at noon in Haas Pavilion (the basketball arena.) Friends, students and the general public are invited to attend.

"Our heart goes out to Alisa's family following this horrible, devastating news," said women's basketball head coach Caren Horstmeyer. "Alisa was one of the nicest, hardest working players I've had the opportunity to coach. We're all in a complete state of shock."

At a Tuesday, January 20 press conference on campus, Horstmeyer said Lewis, who was majoring in social welfare, was a role model posed to make important community contributions after she graduated. Already, said Horstmeyer, Lewis had touched many people's lives.

The coach said that her young player had a credo, words Lewis had posted on a wall several months ago. They said: "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today."

Lewis earned a scholarship to Cal after a successful high school career at Fairfield High School in Northern California. In her senior year, her family moved to Spokane, Washington, and she joined the Cal team in 2001. She lived in an off-campus apartment.

Team members were informed of Lewis' death at a meeting at Haas Pavilion on Monday, January 19. University health officials met with the team and coaching staff, providing health information and counseling. They emphasized that bacterial meningitis is rare and not spread through casual contact.

Following established public health procedures, university officials alerted city and county public health authorities.

"Due to on-going, close contact we felt it was appropriate to offer a single-dose antibiotic to team members and some staff as a precaution," said Dr. Peter Dietrich, medical director of the University Health Service.

The University Health Services' website provides detailed information on the signs, symptoms and treatment of meningitis. Common early symptoms of bacterial (also called meningococcal) meningitis include fever, severe sudden headache accompanied by mental changes such as malaise or lethargy, and neck stiffness. It can also be accompanied by a rash, mainly on the arms and legs. Any person with those symptoms is urged to seek immediate medical attention.