DEARING, Ga. (WJBF) – The McDuffie County community is mourning the loss of a Thomson High School senior who died last month. The cause of death has been ruled a rare brain infection.

We’re talking about a straight-A student who played tennis and participated in other groups. As the summer ends and school starts back, this bright bulldog will surely be missed.

“We have a golf tournament, between all the cart boys, that we’ve done. This year was the second one. We decided instead of playing for money amongst ourselves, we were going to take all the money we would have played for and donate it to the family,” Jake Bennett, a Belle Mead Country Club cart boy told us.

Putting with a purpose. The annual golf tournament put on by the Belle Meade Country Club Cart Boys brought in money for Megan Ebenroth. The Thomson High School rising senior died at just 17 years old from what the McDuffie County Coroner and Georgia Department of Public Health call a rare brain infection.

“I know, from the few interactions that I had with her, she was a very nice person, very sweet, very kind. If Seth was dating her, she had to be a good person,” Bennett said.

Seth Adams is Megan’s boyfriend. He also works at Belle Meade. His cart boy colleagues raised thousands of dollars in the teen’s honor playing golf.

“Between that and cash donations we’ve raised over $5,000,” said Bennett, who also had a GoFunMe set up.

Megan died July 22. The coroner said she spent a few days in the hospital after the incident. Georgia Department of Public Health issued an alert about someone in the state dying from Naegleria fowleri infection, an amoeba or single celled living organism found in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and hot springs. It starts by going up your nose.

“You get submerged in the water when you swim or do diving or swimming under water in the pond or in the lake. That’s how the amoeba gets into your nostrils,” said Dr. Ingrid Camelo, Augusta University Associate Professor of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Camelo said this is typically a problem in the south where temperatures are warmer. She said there’s a 90 percent death rate, with only a handful of people in the country surviving. And she has not seen the infection in more than 20 years. Diagnosing it causes problems because it can appear as bacterial meningitis. But the symptoms, which include headache, fever, neck stiffness and later seizures, have to be treated early.

“I would say hours after suspecting their diagnosis, you have to do a combination therapy with at least four medications,” Dr. Camelo said.

For Thomson Bulldogs headed back to school this week, there’s a great loss. School leaders said Megan contributed to student council, Beta Club, and was Vice President of the Spanish Club. Loved ones held a funeral for the Dearing native at her church, Fort Creek Baptist, on July 26.

Bennett added, “I’m just glad that we were able to do something to help Seth out, help Megan’s family out most of all and to help our friend to.”

We do not know where Megan was swimming at the time, but that’s not important. This amoeba can live in any warm, freshwater lake or river. It is not in swimming pools or oceans.

 The CDC recommends:

• Avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm fresh water, especially during the summer.

• Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when in bodies of warm fresh water.

• Avoid putting your head under water in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.

• Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment in shallow, warm fresh water. The amoebae are more likely to live in sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

DEARING, Ga. (WJBF) – A McDuffie County teen is being remembered after dying from a rare brain infection called Naegleria Fowleri.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) says the victim, Megan Ebenroth, was likely infected while swimming in a freshwater lake or pond.

DPH says Naegleria Fowleri destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and usually death.

The website says Naegleria Fowleri is an amoeba (single-celled living organism) that lives in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and hot springs. Naegleria Fowleri is not found in salt water, such as the ocean, and it is not found in properly treated drinking water and swimming pools.

Naegleria Fowleri is commonly called the “brain-eating amoeba” because it can cause a brain infection, primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), when water containing the amoeba goes up the nose.

It cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person.

The read more about the symptoms of Naegleria Fowleri, click here.

A GundFundMe account has been created by the Belle Meade Country Club to help with Megan’s funeral expenses, click here to donate.

Starling Funeral Home is handling Megan’s arrangements.

NewsChannel 6’s Renetta DuBose will have more on this story Tuesday afternoon/evening.