ABC News reports that a 12-year-old girl is in critical condition with a rare form of meningitis after contracting a deadly brain-eating parasite.
Kali Hardig is being treated at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
The Arkansas Department of Health reports that Hardig may have contracted the infection at Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Ark., a park that was linked in 2010 to causing the same infection in another visitor.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is a rare form of meningitis caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.
While it is rare, infections almost always lead to death.
The CDC reports that one person out of 128 infected in the United States between 1962 and 2012 has survived.
Park owners David and Lou Ann Ratliff have closed Willow Springs Water Park after Hardig’s case was diagnosed. Their website states that the park is “under renovation.”
The Ratcliffs issued a statement to the press, saying, “Though the odds of contracting Naegleria are extremely low, they are just not good enough to allow our friends or family to swim.”
The Arkansas Department of Health states that the amoeba Naegleria thrives in warm, standing freshwater.
Typically harmless to humans, it can cause fatal brain swelling if it is inhaled through the nose, something that can easily happen to swimmers who are enjoying a day at the lake.
Dr. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health issued the following statement to those who are concerned about Naegleria:
“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 first symptoms of PAM start one to seven days after initial infection. If you swam at Willow Springs Water Park more than eight days ago, you are NOT at risk for the infection.”
What are the symptoms of the brain-eating amoeba?
According to the CDC, early symptoms include a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.
Soon after, the symptoms progress to “a stiff neck, seizures, confusion and hallucinations as the amoeba makes its way up through the nasal cavity into the brain.”
The CDC advises that anyone who has these symptoms who has recently been in “warm freshwater” should seek medical care immediately.