In a horrifying story out of Florida, a 12-year-old boy has lost his battle to fight the brain eating amoeba he caught while swimming in a ditch this summer. Zachary Reyna of LaBelle, Florida was diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is a form of meningitis caused by the amoeba naegleria fowleri. He never recovered.
The amoeba infects people when they take in contaminated water through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it is rare, when it strikes, it is often deadly.
Heartbreakingly, Reyna is never going to recover and though he is on a ventilator for today, his parents plan to take him off tonight. As a parent, it is something that just sends chills down your spine. How could this happen?
Apparently Zach was infected while knee boarding with friends in a ditch near his family's home on August 3. Earlier this month, a girl contracted the same deadly illness and managed to survive it, but it is rare to survive once infected.
For parents, it's important to know the initial symptoms. They are vomiting, fever, nausea, and stiff neck. As it progresses patients exhibit confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. Death can come between one and 12 days.
This infection is more common in the Southeastern United States and can best be avoided by wearing a nose plug. Of course, it can also be avoided by never allowing children to go into the water, but how realistic is that option?
Sadly, there are many dangers we can't see and we can't anticipate. As parents, our job is to keep our kids as safe as we can by playing the odds. While I would likely not play in a ditch, I can imagine to a 12-year-old boy, that would look like a great time. Never in a million years could anyone have imagined what horror might come from it.
It's a tragedy, to be sure. But it's rare. And while we can talk about nose plugs and what to look out for, the reality is, we can't avoid every danger in the world.
Reyna's parents plan to donate his organs in the ultimate act of generosity. My heart is broken for them and I hope they can find strength in this horrible time.
Do you worry about this amoeba?
Image via Mike Fisher /Flickr