Brain-Eating Parasite Kills 12-Year-Old Florida Boy

Monday, 26 Aug 2013 07:05 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A brain-eating parasite has killed the 12-year-old Florida boy who doctors hoped would be the fourth person in the last half-century to survive the deadly infection.

Zachary Reyna, of LaBelle, Fla., died Saturday at Miami Children's Hospital, where he had been in critical condition since earlier this month, CNN reported.

"The battle is over for Zac but he won the war," the Reyna family wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to the boy, adding that he will remain on a ventilator so his organs can be donated. "Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives."

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The Reynas believe Zac was infected with the often-fatal strain of meningitis, called Naegleria fowleri, Aug. 3 after swimming in a water-filled ditch. He was hospitalized the next day and underwent brain surgery to treat the brain-eating parasite.

A person will begin to experience symptoms one to seven days after becoming infected with the brain-eating parasite, including headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations," the agency website says. "After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days."

The parasite is usually found in hot springs and warm, fresh water, and works its way up the nose into the brain. It's extremely rare, with only 32 reported cases between 2001 and 2010.

Of the 128 known cases in the past half-century, only three people survived the infection, the CDC said. One of those three is 12-year-old Kali Hardig from Arkansas, who was sickened in July after playing at a water park.

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Hardig was prescribed a cocktail of antifungal medicine and antibiotics, along with an anti-amoeba experimental CDC drug, and is now in the rehab stage of her recovery.

Reyna, too, was given the experimental Impavido drug, but it could not slow the progression of the brain-eating parasite.

Related stories:

Brain-Eating Amoeba — aka Naegleria Fowleri — Fought With Impavido

Cautious Florida Issues Brain-Eating Amoeba Warning After Boy Sickened  

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