Young Zachary had been battling the infection with the rare amoeba Naegleria fowleri, a unicellular microorganism found in bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers and hot springs.
Two Facebook posts advised those who were closely following this heartbreaking story that the seventh grader, stricken with the disease in early August, had lost his life.
“The battle is over for Zac but he won the war… Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives.”
The family’s second post was in reference to the fact that a ventilator was being used to support Zachary’s body so that his organs could be made available to those in need.
Doctors had been using an experimental drug on Zachary, the same drug that saved an Arkansas girl who also had the rare amoeba infection.
On Aug. 3, Zachary was kneeboarding with friends in a water-filled ditch near his Labelle, Fla. home. The next day, his family said he was ill and slept close to 24 hours straight.
“We said, ‘Oh, he just has a virus, he just has one of those 24 hour viruses,’” Zachary's brother Brandon Villarreal said. “He slept all day, all night and that's when my mom said, ‘OK something's not right.’”
N. fowleri, which enters through the nasal cavity, can invade and attack the human nervous system, and although rare, once infected, the case fatality rate is 98 percent. Only 123 reported cases of the amoeba have been reported since 1962. Just three have survived.