A TEN-YEAR-OLD girl is fighting for her life after contracting a brain-eating parasite while swimming in a river near her home.
Lily Avant had been complaining of a headache before coming down with a fever – now in a medically induced coma after contracting a Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as brain-eating amoeba.
The little girl had been swimming in a river near her home in central Texas just last weekend when she contracted the infection, NBC DFW reported.
The deadly bug enters the body through the nose before it travels up to the brain where it destroys the tissue.
Her cousin Wendy Scott said the family had taken Lily to hospital when the schoolgirl started to complain of feeling ill but it was initially believed she had a virus from school.
But Lily’s condition began to deteriorate over the next few days – with the little girl becoming incoherent.
Mrs Scott said: “She was brought into the emergency room on Tuesday when she woke up unresponsive.
“She was eyes open, she was there, but she wasn’t speaking. Nothing.”
What is Amoebic Meningitis?
Amoebic meningitis is a rare brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri – a single-cell organism too small to be seen without a microscope.
Naegleria fowleri lives in soil and warm freshwater around the world.
It grows best at higher temperatures up to 46°C and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures. It can be found in:
- Bodies of warm freshwater, such as lakes and rivers
- Geothermal (naturally hot) water, such as hot springs
- Warm water discharge from industrial plants
- Untreated geothermal (naturally hot) drinking water sources
- Swimming pools that are poorly maintained or minimally-chlorinated
- Water heaters
Naegleria fowleri does not live in salt water, like the ocean.
Most infections have been linked to swimming in southern-US states, like Florida and Texas.
In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources enters the nose.
For example when people submerge their heads or cleanse their noses during religious practices.
Early signs of amoebic meningitis are similar to symptoms of bacterial meningitis, including:
- Stiff neck
While later symptoms include:
- Lack of attention to people and surroundings
- Loss of balance
After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days.
There were just 145 known cases of Americans being infected by the amoeba between 1962 and 2018.
One swimmer died from the rare infection earlier this year after a day out with his church friends at Fantasy Lake Water Park in North Carolina.
Only four cases are known to have survived after contracting the infection, with Lily’s family praying she will become the fifth survivor.
And Lily’s mum Laci yesterday wrote on Facebook, thanking the thousands who have inundated the family with thoughts and prayers.
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She said: “I don’t have the words to tell you all how much we appreciate every single one of you.
“We thank you all for every single thing that everyone has been doing to help us fight this fight.
“We are truly blessed to have so many people fighting along with us for our baby girl.”