FL Health Officials Warn Of Freshwater Amoeba Attacks

MIAMI (CBS4) – A Florida boy continues to fight for his life at Miami Children’s Hospital after being infected by a brain-eating amoeba nearly two weeks ago.

Zachary Reyna, 12, came down with the rare, deadly infection while knee-boarding with friends in a water-filled ditch near his home in LaBelle.

Family posted a message on Facebook Friday night, saying despite Zachary’s deteriorating condition, doctors have agreed to continue with an experimental treatment.

“First of all I want to thank God for giving us and Zac another day. The doctors have granted Zac more time for the treatment and that’s all I can ask for. This is part of God’s plan. Our family has to be patient while God is working with us and with so many others. Thank you Lord for being so caring and loving to all of us. We will continue to pray for Zachary but we understand that it is God’s will. We have faith that He is preparing us for a victory no matter what the outcome is,” it was stated in the post.

Doctors have been using the same experimental treatment on Zachary as those given to Arkansas 12-year-old Kali Hardig, who is recovering from the same infection.

“Because of the amount of inflammation and damages that occur during that process, it does destroy the brain tissue,” said State Health Officer, Dr. Celeste Phillip.

The amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri is found in warm, still waters like lakes, rivers, ponds and puddles.

According to health experts, the amoeba typically enters the body through the nose as people are swimming or diving, then travels to the brain.

The Florida Department of Health says summer is the worst time of the year for kids to play in those bodies of water.

“I will have you remember which are our warmest months in Florida where the temperatures are going to be higher, July, August and September,” said Pat Robbins with the Florida Department of Health.

Since being hospitalized, support for Zachary has spread through social media. A facebook page dedicated to him has more than 7-thousand likes as of Friday night. Tweets are also pouring in, with people using the hashtag #pray4number4– hoping Zachary will be the fourth person to ever beat the infection.

Zachary’s family remains at his bedside, updating the public about his condition through social media. They say they are touched by the love from around the world, and hope their pain will help raise awareness about the fatal infection they had never heard about until now.

Here are some tips to help lower the risk of infection:

–          Avoid swimming in freshwater when the water temperature is high and the water level is low.

–          Hold your nose closed when underwater or use nose clips.

–          Avoid stirring up sediment while wading in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

“Parents need to be vigilant regarding considering what exposures might happen during the course of their activities during the warm summer months,” added Dr. Phillip.

Medical experts said it can take up to a week to notice symptoms of the amoeba.
They include headache, fever, vomiting and seizures.

This type of amoeba is not found in saltwater and can not survive in chlorine.

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