12-year old Zachary Reyna, has lost his battle against a brain-eating amoeba that entered his body whole kneeboarding with friends in a ditch filled with water near his home in Labelle, FL on August 3rd.
The parasite known as Naegleria fowleri, is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers. The amoeba usually travels up the nose to the brain, where it causes a highly lethal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
“The single-celled organisms naturally fee on bacteria, however when they find themselves in the brain where there's no bacteria to feast on, they turn to consuming brain tissue even though it's not their preferred food,” commented CDC researcher Dr. Jennifer Cope.
Experts say the symptoms started subtly, usually within 1 to 7 days. They include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Once it’s gained a foothold, the disease progresses quickly, causing stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. Most victims die in less than 2 weeks.. According to the CDC only three people have been known to survive after being infected during the past 50 years. The latest was 12-year-old Kali Hardig of Arkansas.
Although there was no hope of recovery for Zachary, his body was kept on a ventilator at Miami Children’s Hospital so that his organs could be donated to others, and to allow family and friends to visit him and pay their last respects.