A teenager is fighting for his life after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba while on a beach vacation with his family

File photo of a beach.Charles Davis / Insider

  • A teenage boy in Florida has been hospitalized with a brain-eating amoeba infection.

  • His family brought him to the emergency room when he had a fever and hallucinations.

  • Doctors believe he may have inhaled a dangerous amoeba while swimming on the beach.

NBC2 reported that a 13-year-old boy in Florida was hospitalized with a brain-eating amoeba infection after a family trip to the beach.

Ziegelbauer’s vacation took a turn about a week after visiting Port Charlotte beach, when their son Caleb began experiencing symptoms so severe that they brought him to the emergency room.

His family told the local news channel that he first had a headache and a fever. They called the pediatrician when the temperature rose to 105 degrees and he began to have neck pain consistent with meningitis. The next day, Zigelbauer began to hallucinate, prompting an hour’s drive to the hospital.

The baby is now being treated for brain swelling in the intensive care unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital, according to a Facebook post by his aunt Katie Chet.

Doctors believe that Zigelbauer contracted a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri while swimming on the beach. The amoeba is known to reach the human brain by entering the nose, but most cases are officially diagnosed after the patient dies.

Only four people in the United States are known to have survived N. fowleri infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“A lot of times people don’t get to the hospital fast enough,” Cheett said. “Hopefully we did.”

Amoeba infection may be confused with meningitis

Symptoms of amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) usually appear within a week of exposure to the amoeba, according to the CDC.

Early symptoms of PAM may include a severe frontal headache, fever, and a stiff neck — all of which may also indicate bacterial meningitis, a more common brain infection.

Diagnosing PAM involves testing the new cerebrospinal fluid for the presence of N. fowleri or examining brain tissue collected during biopsies and autopsies. Without a clear indication of PAM, doctors may assume that the infection is meningitis.

Another aunt wrote on Facebook that Zigelbauer’s blood tests and CSF cultures were inconclusive. The inflammation in his brain worsened during more than two weeks in the hospital, particularly around the nasal cavity.

This is consistent with N. fowleri’s method of infecting humans; The amoeba must enter through the nose to infect humans with disease. N. fowleri cannot infect people who swallow or only swim in contaminated water.

The amoeba is known to thrive in warm fresh water, which may include a wider area as the climate warms.

The waters in Port Charlotte are fed by three freshwater rivers that mix with ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico, creating a warm environment that can range from fresh water to salt water depending on the season, according to Lee County, Florida.

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