Florida Health Officials Issue Warning of Brain-Eating Amoeba

Florida Health Officials Issue Warning of Brain-Eating Amoeba

The Florida Department of Health issued a warning this week of a rare brain-eating amoeba that feeds off brain cells.

The warning comes off the news of a 12-year-old boy affected with the parasite, currently fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at the Miami Children's Hospital.

Health officials have made the warning specifically for lakes and natural freshwater, where the amoeba can find the perfect temperature to thrive. The parasite travels through the nose and into the brain, where it devours cells.

The parasite, called Naegleria fowleri, can be fatal if not treated early.

It thrives in hot springs and warm freshwater, particularly in the Southeastern United States. But the warm weather has possibly given it a home in some of Florida's lakes and diving holes.

Officials do want to emphasize that you can only contract the virus from swimming in infected areas, and not by drinking water.

The boy infected with the amoeba, Zachary Reyna, was apparently with his friends in a ditch filled with water a few weeks ago. The next day, he complained of fatigue and was lethargic all day.

Zachary's family took him to the hospital, where doctors discovered the parasite in his brain, and performed surgery on the boy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent the family an experimental drug to combat Naegleria fowleri. The drug recently helped a 12-year-old Arkansas girl recover after she was infected with the parasite. She is reportedly in rehab and showing progress in her recovery.

As for the warning, the CDS says people should avoid swimming in freshwater, especially when the water level is low, and the temperature is warm. If you do go for a swim, be sure to shut your nostrils with your hand or a clip.

So far, only about 32 cases have been confirmed in the last decade, but health officials are warning Floridians to be wary after this recent case.

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