Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida boy fights rare brain-eating amoeba infection

LABELLE — Health officials in Florida said Tuesday that a 12-year-old boy is fighting a rare and deadly infection that is attacking his brain.

Family members told media outlets that Zachary Reyna of Southwest Florida was infected with Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL-er-eye), a microscopic single-celled living amoeba that is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.

It can cause a rare brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal, the Florida Department of Health said in a news release Tuesday. State officials confirmed the boy is battling PAM.

"The effects of PAM on the individuals who contract the amoeba are tragic," said Dr. Carina Blackmore, Florida's interim state epidemiologist. "We want to remind Floridians to be wary when swimming, jumping or diving in fresh water when water temperatures are high and water levels are low. If you are partaking in recreational swimming activities during this time, please take necessary precautions and remind your family and friends to do the same."

Infections from the amoeba are rare.

Florida officials cited federal statistics showing that 28 infections were reported in the United States from 2003 to 2012, mostly from exposure to contaminated recreational water. A person cannot be infected with the amoeba by drinking contaminated water, state officials said, and the amoeba is not found in salt water.

Victims typically are exposed to the bug while swimming or doing water sports in warm ponds, lakes, rivers and canals during the hot summer months, mostly in the South.

Family members said the boy was infected while knee boarding with friends in a ditch near his family's LaBelle home on Aug. 3. He is being treated in the intensive care unit at Miami Children's Hospital.

Bridgette Cochran, whose son was with the boy when he likely was exposed, told the News-Press of Fort Myers that two other boys playing with Zachary at the time did not get sick. She said they were playing in a channel that children frequent during rainy summer months.

Experts say the amoeba gets up the nose and travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which destroys brain tissue. It's a medical mystery why some people who swim in amoeba-containing water get the fatal nervous system condition while many others don't.

"The low number of infections makes it difficult to know why a few people have been infected compared to the millions of other people that used the same or similar waters across the U.S.," Florida officials said in their news release.

Initial symptoms usually start within one to seven days and may include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. The disease progresses rapidly, and other symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.

State officials said people can reduce the risks of becoming infected by limiting the amount of water going up the nose, avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater when temperatures are high and water levels are low, and avoid digging in or stirring up sediment while in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

Florida boy fights rare brain-eating amoeba infection 08/13/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Homer-happiness returns against Blue Jays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are back to hitting home runs, which was the norm of the offense for much of the season before the offense went cold.

    Adeiny Hechavarria greets teammate Kevin Kiermaier after his home run during the third inning at the Trop.
  2. Jones: Stop talking and start building a new Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was good to see Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, talking Rays baseball and the hope for a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is popular with the media on a visit to Tropicana Field.
  3. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. What do kids need to stay away from deadly auto theft epidemic?

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    Congressman Charlie Crist (center) listens as Shenyah Ruth (right), a junior at Northeast High School, talks during Wednesday's youth roundtable meeting with community leaders and kids. They met to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]