Houston teen Michael John Riley Jr. died from a brain-eating amoeba after getting water in his mouth while swimming at Sam Houston State Park in Texas. The 14-year-old track star went swimming at the freshwater lake earlier this month with his team.
Michael Riley’s family announced their loved one’s death on Monday, MSN reports. The Riley family posted on Facebook that Michael contracted a lethal disease caused by the brain-eating amoeba he came into contact with while swimming in the warm waters at the Sam Houston State Park.
“It is with a heavy heart that we tell you, Michael John Riley Jr. lost his battle on this earth but won a victory for his place in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. Michael fought a courageous fight over the past week, allowing him to move on to be with the Lord for future heavenly tasks, a beautiful set of wings, and a pair of gold running shoes.”
Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is extremely rare. During the past 50 years, there have reportedly been only about eight cases per year diagnosed in the United States.
Michael John Riley Jr.’s family has vowed to launch an awareness campaign about PAM and to support ongoing scientific efforts to garner a better understanding of the rare and lethal infection. Riley was a member of the National Honor Society and a 3-time Junior Olympics competitor, KTLA reports.
The Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which flourishes in warm water, is known to cause PAM. Scientists have stated that children who swim and play in rivers and freshwater lakes are typically those most commonly affected by the brain-eating amoeba.
“They get water up their nose with those organisms in there,” Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Director of Epidemiology Luis Ostrosky said. “They start invading the nasal tissues. They basically go all the way to the brain and you get a brain infection.”
The brain-eating amoeba typically “feeds on bacteria” and begins to multiply — causing the brain to swell. PAM victims commonly die within seven to 10 days after ingesting Naegleria fowleri. A patient treated with the same condition before Riley was able to survive for three weeks while undergoing treatment at the Texas Children’s Hospital.
A PAM case from 2013 gave the Riley family hope. The Arkansas patient had contracted the brain-eating amoeba from a water park, and is one of only two known American survivors of the brain infection.
Riley reportedly became ill several days after going swimming at the Sam Houston State Park with his Cy-Ridge High School track team members on August 13. The long-distance runner complained of headaches which grew significantly worse the next few days. The head pain ultimately became unbearable, his neck grew stiff, and Riley was disoriented when conscious.
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