Naegleria fowleri, 'brain-eating amoeba' found in Florida

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Aug. 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM   |   Comments

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Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Health officials in Florida have confirmed a case of a rare and deadly amoeba that can destroy the tissue of the brain.

A 12-year-old boy in LaBelle contracted an infection from Naegleria fowleri, known as the "brain-eating amoeba," after playing in contaminated water earlier this month.

Zachary Reyna was taken to Miami Children's Hospital over the weekend with flu-like symptoms, where he was diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The two other boys playing in the water with him on August 3 did not get sick.

Zac's family has set up a Facebook page to keep friends and family up to date and started a fund to cover expenses of his care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is primarily found in warm freshwater bodies, including lakes, rivers and hot springs, and soil.

The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain, where it can destroy brain tissue between one and seven days after exposure and kills within 12 days. Before 2012, only one person out of 128 infected was known to have survived a PAM infection, but a 12-year-old girl was exposed weeks ago and continues to fight her infection.

PAM presents itself first with headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, and later with stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, coma and death.

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