Texas 10-Year-Old Tragically Dies from ‘Extremely Rare’ Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

A 10-year-old girl has tragically died from a brain-eating amoeba after swimming in Brazos River near Waco.

Lily Mae Avant, from Boque County, Texas, swam in the freshwater river over Labor Day weekend and died last Monday, her family confirmed to People. Doctors at the Cook Children’s Medical Center had been treating her for Naegleria fowleri, a rare, sing-celled living organism typically found in fresh bodies of water, including ponds, lakes and rivers.

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After swimming in the river, Lily began having headaches and a fever. She visited the family doctor who recommended taking ibuprofen and staying hydrated. Lily’s headache, however, continued to get worse and her family eventually took her to the ER. Her parents found her unresponsive and she was treated for bacterial and viral meningitis.

She was later transferred to Cook Children’s and given a spinal tap which revealed that she had Naegleriasis. She was given antimicrobial medication to treat the infection.

“Naegleria fowleri, the amoeba that causes PAM, can infect the brain when someone gets untreated water in their nose, usually during swimming or other water recreation,” Chris Van Deusen from the Texas Department of State Health Services told People. “The amoeba, itself, is common in natural, untreated bodies of water across the southern half of the United States, but the infection is extremely rare.”

The state typically sees “zero to one case” a year he continued. Because it’s so rare, health officials have been unable to determine why some people who swim in the fresh water contract, while many don’t.

The Texas Department of State Health Services recommended “it’s safest to swim in properly chlorinated water,” though there are precautions swims can take. They recommend avoiding warm freshwater when water temperatures are high and the water levels are low, not putting your head under the water in hot springs and not digging or stirring up sediment when in shallow, warm freshwater areas. It’s also best to hold your hose shut or use nose clips when you go underwater.

It’s also recommended that you only use sterile, distilled or lukewarm previously boiled water when using a Neti-pot.  

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