Microscopic image of the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleria.
(News-Press) -- A 12-year-old Southwest Florida boy contracted a rare and deadly
infection from a "brain-eating" amoeba after playing in contaminated
water Aug. 3 in LaBelle, according to family, friends and public health
The boy, identified as Zachary
Reyna, was taken to Miami Children's Hospital for treatment over the
weekend after a week of escalating flu-like symptoms.
the hospital has not released his condition, family and friends told
media outlets Monday that he continues to fight for his survival. Others
have posted messages on a special Facebook page praying for his
other boys playing with Zachary at the time did not get sick, said
Bridgette Cochran, whose son was with the boy when he was likely exposed
to the organism. All were playing in a channel in a LaBelle residential
area that commonly draws children during the rainy, summer months,
organism, Naegleria fowleri, is commonly found in freshwater lakes,
ponds and rivers, can cause rare and deadly brain infections known as
primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
See Also: Dangerous Naegleria fowleri lurks in FL lakes, ponds
destroys brain tissue and is highly lethal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one out of the 128 people
infected in the United States between 1962 and 2012 survived it. Even
so, only 31 U.S. cases have been reported between 2003 and 2012,
according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That's little comfort, though, Cochran said. "It seems so rare until it's at your back door," she said.
Zachary Reyna case comes weeks after a 12-year-old girl in Arkansas was
infected with PAM. She continues to fight it, according to published
Health Department in Glades County confirmed the case Saturday but was
unsure where the infection actually took place, said spokeswoman Brenda
"There's really no way to pinpoint the water or soil source because it's naturally occurring," Barnes said.
of PAM usually start within a week after infection and include
headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms include stiff neck,
confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
to the health department, risk is reduced by limiting the amount of
water going up your nose, avoiding water-related activities in warm
freshwater during periods of high-water temperature and low-water
levels, and by avoiding digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while
taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater
most recent known Florida infection happened in August 2011. According
to reports at the time, it resulted in the death of a Brevard County teenager who likely was exposed to the organism in St. John's river.
Southwest Florida, the last case involved a Bonita Springs teenager,
who died from a PAM infection in 1995. The boy had been swimming in a
canal swollen from the rains of Tropical Storm Jerry, according to