Texas girl fights for life after contracting brain-eating amoeba

The girl fell ill after swimming in the Brazos River. (Photo by Elliot Wilson/file)
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BOSQUE COUNTY, Texas (KWTX/Gray News) - A Central Texas girl is fighting for her life, days after swimming in the Brazos River and contracting a freshwater amoeba.

According to the #Lilystong Facebook page, Lily Mae swam in the Brazos on Sunday and later came down with a headache and fever.

Her health quickly deteriorated.

She was taken first to a hospital and then was transferred to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, where she remained Thursday evening.

“Her spinal tap revealed that she actually contracted a VERY rare amoeba that is aggressive,” a post on the Facebook page said.

Only four of 145 known infected individuals in the U.S. from 1962 to 2018 have survived, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed Thursday that a Bosque County resident has primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection caused by the so-called brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which is typically found in freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes and rivers.

“The amoeba is present in freshwater across Texas and elsewhere in the U.S., and there’s no particular body of water that would present a greater risk. Cases are extremely rare, despite the millions of people who swim in lakes and rivers every year,” agency spokesman Chris Van Deusen said.

The CDC said that in a 10-year span from 2009 to 2018, 34 infections were reported in the U.S. Recreational water was responsible for 30 of those infections.

To reduce your risk of infection, follow these recommendations from The Texas Department of State Health Services:

  • Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.

  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers or hot springs.

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

  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm, freshwater areas.

  • Use only sterile, distilled or lukewarm previously boiled water for nasal irrigation or sinus flushes (e.g., Neti Pot usage, ritual nasal ablution, etc.).

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