In a follow-up to a recent report, the 12-year-old girl who contacted the greater than 99 percent lethal “brain-eating amoeba”is currently in critical condition at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, according to a CNN report July 29.
Last week, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of the cause of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), the free-living amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.
It is believed that Kali Hardig contracted the very dangerous parasite at the the Willow Springs Water Park. There was a Naegleria case linked to the water park in 2010 also.
At the request of ADH officials, the water park closed last week.
LISTEN: Interview with CDC Medical Epidemiologist, Dr. Jennifer Cope
People typically contract this parasite when contaminated water rushes up the nose when jumping into the water. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM. There are also reports of contracting it via neti pot use.
CNN reports that physicians immediately started treating Hardig with an anti-fungal medicine, antibiotics and a new experimental anti-amoeba drug doctors got directly from the CDC. They have also reduced the girl’s temperature to 93 degrees. Doctors have used that technique in some brain injury cases as a way to preserve undamaged brain tissue.
Naegleria fowleri is a pathogenic amoeba found in warm or hot freshwater like lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is also possible to get it from dirty unchlorinated or under-chlorinated swimming pools. This parasite is found worldwide and in the United States, it is found mainly in the southern-tier states.
PAM has a very rapid progression. Typical symptoms may start after a day or two; headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Later symptoms may include seizures, irrational behavior, hallucinations and finally coma and death. The course of the disease typically last about a week.
Because the symptoms are very similar to bacterial meningitis, PAM may not even be considered in the diagnosis.
In the United States, this rare disease has been reported 123 times, with only one survivor. In the past decade, there has been 31 cases.
This case is only the sixth case in Arkansas in 40 years.
You should always assume there is some risk when swimming in freshwater. The location and number of amoeba present in a body of water varies from time to time. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends these four steps to reduce your risk of infection:
- Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
- Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
- Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
- Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
Looking for a job in health care? Check here to see what’s available