Brain-Eating Parasite Kills 12-Year-Old Florida Boy

A brain-eating parasite has claimed the life of 12-year-old Zachary Reyna from Florida.

His friends and family announced his death via a Facebook page which has been providing up-to-date information about his condition.

The post on Saturday afternoon contained the news that no-one wanted to hear, “The battle is over for Zac but he won the war.” An hour later a new message was posted confirming that a ventilator was being used by doctors on Zac, in order that his organs could be donated. “Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives,” it said in the new Facebook post.

The rare amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, has been in the news lately as more cases have been reported in America. Zachary was being treated with experimental drugs in an effort to combat its effects.

His family told WBBH that it is their belief that their son contracted the infection from the brain-eating parasite while knee-boarding with friends in a ditch full of water, close to his house.

Soon after he was admitted to hospital, Zachary underwent emergency brain surgery. Doctors diagnosed him with a condition called amoebic meningeoencephalitis.

Following the tragic news of Zachary’s diagnosis, the Florida Department of Health (FDH) warned swimmers not to bathe in high water temperatures with low water levels. They said these conditions are prime for the ameoba to cultivate in.

The majority of cases involving the rare parasite have been in the Southeast of America. It is found primarily in and around hot springs and warm freshwater areas. The amoeba enters the body through the nose, travelling straight to the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that symptoms of the parasite appear within a week of being infected and that: “Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days.”

The brain-eating parasite, which claimed the life of Zachary Reyna, appears to have been an isolated case. Parents are advised not to allow their children to swim in high temperature, low level water, as cautioned by the FDH.

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