Warning Issued Concerning Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Warning Issued Concerning Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba

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Miami, FL -

High water temperatures, low water levels...the ideal breeding ground for a brain-eating amoeba.

Now, health officials in Florida are issuing a warning...

"To be wary when swimming, jumping or diving in fresh water" with these conditions...

It's rare, but the amoeba can go up the nose and into the brain, causing Parasitic Amoeba Meningitis, or PAM.

Zachary Reyna, 12, is battling the disease in Miami Children's Hospital after contracting it while kneeboarding in freshwater near his home.

"He's fighting and he's strong, he's really really strong," says Zachary's brother, Brandon Villarreal.

On Facebook, Brandon says Zachary had surgery to remove pressure from his brain.

At a vigil held Tuesday, cheers of support came from Zachary's baseball teammates.

"Everybody needs to keep praying and stay positive,"says Trace Burchard, Zachary's teammate.

Nearly everyone who gets this infection dies. In the past 50 years, only three people have survived. The most recent survivor is 12-year-old Kali Hardig, who's out of a coma and now in fair condition at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"That I'm going to get to take Kali home some day is amazing," says Kali's mother, Traci Hardig.

Doctors credit Kali's amazing survival, in part, to an experimental anti-amoeba drug...

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent the drug to Miami to treat Zachary, and just as friends and family had prayed Kali Hardig would be the third person to survive this horrible infection...Zachary's supporters hope he'll be next.

"He can be number 4, that's what we're hoping for, for him to be number 4," Brandon says.

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

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
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