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Boy gets brain infection from lake

A 12-year-old boy has developed a rare brain infection from amoebas in a Central Florida lake, officials said.

The boy, whose name has not been released, was in critical condition Thursday at Florida Hospital Orlando. He is being treated with intravenous medications for primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection that is not contagious.

"We're doing everything we can for him, but this is a very serious infection," said Dr. Jaime Carrizosa, an infectious disease specialist at Florida Hospital. "Once inside the body, these amoebas just divide and divide, and you will have an overwhelming infection very quickly."

The boy was conscious when he arrived Tuesday at the hospital but was soon sedated so that doctors could put him on a respirator, Carrizosa said.

The Oviedo boy was recently swimming at Long Lake Park in Oviedo and the Conway Chain of Lakes in Orange County.

The Naegleria amoeba, which has been detected in 46 percent of Florida lakes, lives in the soils on the bottoms of freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. It also can be found in unchlorinated swimming pools.

The organism enters the body through the nasal passages, then moves into brain tissue.

Officials closed Long Lake and nearby Round Lake to swimmers on Tuesday, but both had reopened Wednesday.

"If we wanted to avoid all potential exposures to this organism, we would have to close all bodies of water in the state of Florida," said Dr. Steven Wiersma, the state epidemiologist.

A 14-year-old Alabama boy died of primary amebic meningoencephalitis in August 2000 after swimming in a backyard pond in Hastings.