A deadly brain disease that was contracted by a 12-year-old girl has shut down a water park in Little Rock, Ark. today. This “brain eating” parasite, which is what some in the media are calling it today, is actually a deadly brain infection. The young swimmer may have picked up this microscopic parasite at a water park’s sandy-bottom lake, according to ABC News on July 29.
Kali Hardig, pictured above, has been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is a rare form of meningitis caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The 12-year-old girl is in critical condition in an Arkansas hospital today. The 85-year-old water park is now closed. An earlier Naegleria infection was linked to this park in 2010.
The owners of the Willow Springs Water Park, which was shut down due to the possibility that this is where the child came in contact with the parasite, gave a statement to the media today. David and Lou Ann Ratliff said:
“Though the odds of contracting Naegleria are extremely low, they are just not good enough to allow our friends or family to swim.”
The couple also said they are looking into turning the lake into a solid bottom lake, they will never reopen as a sandy bottom lake, the couple conveyed.
Naegleria is usually harmless, but it can cause fatal swelling of the brain if it is inhaled through the nose. This parasite thrives in warm, standing water. The Arkansas Department of Health released a statement which included:
“If concerned about Naegleria, avoid swimming, diving or other activities that push water up the nose, especially in natural waters when temperatures are high and water levels are low.”
The good news is that this type of infection is exceedingly rare. The bad news is that Naegleria fowleri infections are almost always fatal. Out of a documented 128 infected people in the United States between 1962 and 2012, only one person has survived, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms: The CDC reports that the early symptoms of Naegleria fowleri include a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms typically swiftly give way to a stiff neck, seizures, confusion and hallucinations. This happens as the amoeba travels up through the nasal cavity and makes its way into the brain. This disease typically causes death in about five days after the start of the symptoms..
The CDC reports:
“People should seek medical care immediately whenever they develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, and vomiting, particularly if they have been in warm freshwater recently.”
This brain infection has claimed five lives in the last two years. A Minnesota child died last summer during a heat wave in the sate. In the summer of 2011, the four people died from this parasite who had been swimming in freshwater lakes. Those deaths were in the states of Virginia, Florida, Kansas and Louisiana.