In July, a girl in Arkansas was infected and hospitalized by a brain eating amoeba, and now, a 12 year old boy in Florida has also been infected. It’s the same amoeba, but it was found several states away.
Zachary Reyna had been knee boarding with his friends in a ditch filled with water earlier this month. The next day, when he slept all day long, his mother knew that something was not right. Her usually active son was lethargic, and that raised alarm bells.
When she took him to the hospital, doctors confirmed that Zachary had contracted the life-threatening type of meningitis that is caused from the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri. This parasite is most often found in warm, fresh water sources and hot springs. It is contracted when the water gets into the nose; the parasite works up the nose to the brain.
While this type of meningitis is exceedingly rare; only 32 cases have been reported between 2001 and 2010, the case of the boy in Florida is the second case in just a couple of short months.
Symptoms begin about one to seven days after being infected with the parasite, and they include nausea, vomiting, fever, headaches, and stiff neck. Additional symptoms include lack of attention to surroundings and people, confusion, hallucinations, loss of balance and seizures. After symptoms begin, meningitis progresses rapidly and often causes death in just one to 12 days.
In the case of the 128 cases that are known in the past 50 years, only two have survived this infection. In Reyna’s case, he immediately had surgery and is currently in intensive care in the Miami Children’s Hospital.
According to Dr. Dick Haselow with the Arkansas Department of Health, this is one of the most severe types of infections out there right now. Of those that get it, 99 percent of them dies. Reyna has been treated with the same experimental medication that Kali Hardig, the 12 year old girl in Arkansas, was given. It was a combination of antibiotics and antifungal medications, along with the CDC medication that fights the amoeba. She is now in rehab.
While no agency is discouraging healthy swimming, and everyone admits that the amoeba is extremely rare, they do advise caution in situations where the fresh water source is warm, and the water is low. Also, for those that do choose to take a dip, avoid submerging the head in the water, or use nose plugs.