A brain-eating amoeba known as Balamuthia is said to be responsible for taking the life of 20-year-old Koral Reef. Reef's mom believes that she contracted the amoeba after a trip to Lake Havasu in Arizona. It was after this trip that, she says, Koral started experiencing headaches, sensitivity to light and heat, and stiffness in the neck.
Doctors were unable to diagnose the condition in time, and as the Balamuthia grew, Koral's condition worsened.
It was around Thanksgiving of 2013 when family members first indicated the signs of the brain-eating amoeba first appeared, but it wasn't until June of the following year that Koral checked in to an emergency room.
By September, she began going blind and the following month, she died. Now her mother, Cybil Meister, is trying to raise awareness for Balamuthia, which is a parasite that can be found in soil and dust, NBC New York reports.
Cybil especially wants individuals, who might have been in contact areas with a higher probability to ask about testing if they experience any of the symptoms her daughter did.
She also recounts the trouble that Koral went through to get a diagnosis.
"They said, 'Oh, she's having withdrawal from her birth control; It's a migraine.' They gave her medicine and sent her home and then she progressively got worse.... She went to Temecula Valley and they did an MRI. They showed us the MRI and the amoeba, which they didn't know was an amoeba, but there was a mass covering the entire right side of her brain and partial of her left."
According to the doctors that spoke with NBC as part of the news story originally published on Easter Sunday, April 5, Balamuthia is rare even among brain-eating amoeba parasites, but it is also highly fatal.
While there are treatments available, those treatments must be applied in plenty of time to destroy the parasite, and usually people like Koral don't get a diagnosis until it's too late.
The survival rate for those who contract Balamuthia is just 13 percent.
Dr. Navaz Karanjia advised medical professionals on how to proceed with diagnosing Balamuthia, noting that "initial tests come back negative for the usual bacteria and viruses so medical providers need to know if those test come back negative a parasitic infection could be present" provided that the symptoms Koral experienced are present.
Do these brain-eating amoeba stories make you want to think twice before going to natural lakes? How comfortable are you swimming in these types of locations?