A brain-eating amoeba, scientifically known as Naegleria fowleri, killed a 13-year-old boy named Tanner Lake Wall in Florida. According to his parents, the boy contracted the brain-eating amoeba after swimming at a campground in North Florida a few days before he died.
Alicia Whitehill, Tanner's mother, told the media in detail that the boy swam in a lake on Friday and Saturday with 50 other kids, their daughters, and her husband. But only Tanner got infected with amoeba, and no one else got the infection.
Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Florida Boy
13-year-old Tanner was a healthy and active teenager before his unexpected death last month. Two days after swimming in the lake, Tanner began to complain of bad headaches followed by nausea and vomiting. According to reports, Tanner was taken to Putnam Community Medical Center by his parents, where he was diagnosed with strep throat.
But when he did not get any better, his parents took him to UF Health in Gainesville, and he was put on a ventilator. The doctor told Travis Wall, Tanner's father, that the boy did not have bacterial meningitis but rather the incurable parasitic amoeba.
Then on August 2, Tanner no longer showed any signs of brain activity, which led his parents to decide to take him off life support. Shortly after, he succumbed to death.
Tanner's family hopes that health care professionals will be more aware of this rare illness and put signs on places where it is needed to be, especially on warm water lakes, as a warning to swimmers who might get infected from the invisible killer.
The brain-eating amoeba or scientifically known as Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled amoeba that destroys brain tissue, says the Florida Department of Health. This amoeba is mostly found in warm freshwaters like ponds, canals, rivers, and lakes.
The amoeba can get a person infected once it enters the nose. Public health officials said that infections might happen in times of prolonged high temperatures during higher water temperatures and lower water levels. The county health department has already recorded 37 cases of the infection in the state since 1962 as of July.
Infectious disease specialist and chief of infectious disease at Mount Sinai South Nassau, Dr. Aaron Glatt, said that there are always reports of rare infections caused by free-living amoeba acquired after swimming in freshwaters.
Dr. Glatt added that Naegleria fowleri infested freshwaters enter the nose, and then the amoeba moves to the brain, which causes an infection. This infection, although rare, is fatal that does not always respond to any medication. The disease progresses rapidly, and sadly, the diagnosis is often made after the person dies.
According to the CDC, there are only 145 cases of infection in the United States, but there is 97% of dying once a person gets infected. In making the diagnosis, the doctors would need to extract cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) obtained through a lumbar puncture.
Dr. Fred Davis, associate chair of the Emergency Medicine Department at Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said that there is a non-commonly used drug that is often used in this infection, called the miltefosine.
The Florida health officials said that symptoms of this infection include headache, nausea, vomiting, and fever, but as the disease progresses, the patient may feel a stiff neck, seizure, altered mental status, hallucinations, and possible coma.
It is advisable to immediately contact health providers when experiencing these symptoms after swimming in warm freshwaters.
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