Florida Boy, 12, Contracts Brain-Eating Amoeba

ABC News(MIAMI) -- A 12-year-old Florida boy is in intensive care after becoming infected with a deadly brain-eating parasite.

Zachary Reyna has been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare form of meningitis caused by the amoeba naegleria fowleri, according to ABC News Fort Meyers, Fla., affiliate WZVN-TV.

Zachary’s brother, Brandon Villarreal, said the family first thought the young boy had a virus. But when they realized Zachary was sleeping all day and all night, they realized it was something worse.

The Glades County health department confirmed the case this weekend and announced the diagnosis Monda. The infection is usually fatal, according to the department.

“This is a very rare occurrence,” county health department spokeswoman Brenda Barnes told ABC News. “This amoeba is out there. It could be anywhere in any warm, fresh water.”

The boy was at Miami Children’s Hospital’s ICU as of Monday night, according to WZVN.

The amoeba infects people when they take in contaminated water through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They do not get it by drinking contaminated water.

Officials don’t know where Zachary got the parasite, which usually takes up to a week to cause symptoms. His diagnosis follows that of 12-year-old Kali Hardig, who is thought to have contracted the same parasite at an Arkansas water park.

To reduce the risk of contracting the deadly amoeba, health officials said there are a few things swimmers can do:

  • Try to keep water from going up their noses;
  • Avoid warm freshwater when the water temperature is high and the water level is low;
  • Avoid stirring up sediment in shallow water.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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