Michael John Riley Jr., 14, died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba while swimming at Sam Houston State Park with his track team. The primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is extremely rare and nearly always deadly.
Riley, a track star in great health, was swimming at the warm freshwater lake earlier this month when he ingested the brain-eating amoeba in his mouth or nose, MSN reports. During the past five decades, there have been only about eight cases per year diagnosed in the United States.
Michael John Riley Jr.’s family announced his death on Monday, via a Facebook update post.
“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.”
The Houston teen’s family is launching a primary amoebic meningoencephalitis awareness campaign and will support ongoing scientific research efforts working towards garnering an increased understanding about PAM. Michale John Riley was a member of the National Honor Society, the Cy-Ridge High School track team, and was a 3-time Junior Olympics competitor, KTLA reports.
The PAM-causing naegleria fowleri amoeba flourishes in warm water. Researchers largely feel that children who swim and play in rivers and freshwater lakes are most often the victims of the deadly infection. The brain-eating amoeba feeds on bacteria and then multiplies, causing the brain to swell. Victims typically die within seven to 10 days after ingesting the brain-eating amoeba.
A PAM patient treated shortly before Riley became infected with the amoeba was able to survive for three weeks. In 2013, another victim was able to survive the brain infection, giving the Riley family hope that the 14-year-old Houston teen could recover.
“They get water up their nose with those organisms in there. They start invading the nasal tissues. They basically go all the way to the brain and you get a brain infection,” Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Director of Epidemiology Luis Ostrosky said.
Michael John Riley Jr. became sick just a few days after going swimming at the Sam Houston State Park on August 13. The long-distance runner was afflicted with headaches that grew significantly worse. The headaches ultimately became unbearable for the Houston teen. Riley was placed in a medically induced coma after his neck grew stiff and he became disoriented.
[Image via Twitter]