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 said Zachary Reyna was infected with Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba that is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.
It can cause a rare brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal, the Florida Department of Health said in a news release. State officials confirmed the boy has 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 freshwater when water temperatures are high and water levels are low"
Family members said the boy was infected while knee boarding with friends in a ditch near his family's LaBelle home in Hendry County on Aug. 3. He is being treated in the intensive care unit at Miami Children's Hospital.
Experts say the amoeba gets up the nose and travels to the brain where it causes PAM. It's unknown why some people who swim in amoeba-containing water get the condition while many others don't.