Florida teen killed by brain-eating amoeba

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The FINANCIAL — A young Florida teen Tanner Lake Wall has died after he fell ill from a rare brain-eating amoeba he encountered while being on a vacation. The family of the thirteen-year-old boy said that he died this summer following a family vacation to a North Florida campground equipped with a water park and lake. There are only 145 cases of infection in the United States, but there is 97% of dying once a person gets infected. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. 

The teen’s parents said that Tanner began experiencing concerning symptoms (such as Nauseau, vomiting, bad headaches) just two days after swimming with family and friends. The pair took their son to Putnam Community Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed Tanner with strep throat. But Travis and Alicia had a feeling their son’s illness was much more than that. They drove an hour away to UF Health in Gainesville, where Tanner was placed on a ventilator and doctors made a tragic discovery. They said, Tanner did not have bacterial meningitis and he had a parasitic amoeba and informed the parents that there is no cure. Tanner is believed to be the second person to be infected with a parasitic amoeba this summer in Florida. In July, the Florida Department of Health announced that a case was reported in Hillsborough County. From 2009 to 2018 the CDC recorded 34 infections across the country. Of those cases, 30 were infected through recreational water, three were infected after performing nasal irrigation with infected tap water and one via contaminated tap water used on a backyard slip-n-slide. The Department of Health announced 16 cases and two deaths in Florida this year. In 2019, there were 27 cases and two deaths,  Daily Mail reported.

Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba” or “brain-eating ameba”), is a free-living microscopic ameba, (single-celled living organism). It can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The ameba is commonly found in warm freshwater (e.g. lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and soil. Naegleria fowleri usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the ameba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. 

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Wall’s parents are hoping their tragic story informs other families of the dangers of this potentially deadly infection. “So parents are aware, maybe they weren’t thinking about it because I can sure tell you we weren’t,” Travis Wall said. “We grew up swimming in ponds and creeks and stuff like that.” The Wall family told WJXT they want warning signs put up informing others about the dangers of swimming in warm waters during the summer. The station didn’t identify the campground the Wall family said they visited, since officials haven’t positively traced Wall’s sickness to that location yet. ” People need to be aware from July to the latter part of September, with the hot waters, that this amoeba, it can come up your nose. It can be diving. It can be swimming, water sports, skiing, things like that,” Travis Wall explained, according to CBS.

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, Science Times wrote.

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Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in lakes in southern-tier states during the summer but more recently has caused infections in northern states. This means that recreational water users should be aware that there will always be a low level risk of infection when entering these waters. In very rare instances, Naegleria has been identified in water from other sources such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water. Naegleria fowleri grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures. Naegleria fowleri can grow in pipes, hot water heaters, and water systems, including treated public drinking water systems. Personal actions to reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up the nose and lowering the chances that Naegleria fowleri may be in the water. 

It is interesting to note that preliminary clinical data indicate that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection is associated with neurological and neuropsychiatric illness. A new study shows that some coronavirus patients suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage or other serious brain effects. Another dozen patients observed in the study had swelling in their central nervous systems. “We’re seeing things in the way Covid-19 affects the brain that we haven’t seen before with other viruses,” said Michael Zandi, a senior author on the study. Read more

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