Brain-eating amoeba infects 10-year-old girl after swim in Texas river, family says

A 10-year-old girl was infected with a rare and deadly brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a Texas river, her family says.

10-year-old girl dies of brain-eating amoeba contracted from Texas river, family says

Now she’s in a fight for her life, according to a Facebook group.

On Sunday, Lily Mae Avant swam in the Brazos River and symptoms of the infection began soon after, KRLD NewsRadio reported. First, she had a headache and fever similar to a common infection, and was seen by a family doctor, according to a Facebook post.

However, it was something much worse.

“After hearing what they thought were sounds of Lily having a nightmare in her sleep, mom quickly realized Lily was beginning the fight of her life,” according to the #Lilystrong public Facebook group. “She was incoherent, unresponsive and was quickly swept up and taken to the ER.”

Then Lily was flown to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Doctors diagnosed her with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, KRLD reported.

That’s a deadly infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba found in warm freshwater and soil, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People don’t get the disease from swallowing water, but rather from the amoeba entering the nose and traveling to the brain, according to the agency.

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed a case of the highly fatal infection in a Bosque County resident but declined to identify the person, citing privacy reasons in an email to McClatchy news group.

The amoeba is present in freshwater across Texas and elsewhere in the US, and there’s no particular body of water that would present a greater risk,” agency spokesman Chris Van Deusen told KWTX. “Cases are extremely rare, despite the millions of people who swim in lakes and rivers every year.”

Over the past decade, 34 people have been infected in the United States, according to the CDC.

People with the disease usually die within five days after symptoms start, according to the agency.

“It is extremely serious and almost always fatal,” Van Deusen said, in an e-mail to McClatchy news group. “Since it’s so rare, we don’t know why a few people get sick while millions who swim in natural bodies of water don’t.”

The Texas agency said it’s safest to swim in chlorinated water, but swimmers in lakes or rivers can take steps to prevent infection.

  • “Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.”
  • “Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.”
  • “Avoid putting your head under the water in hot springs and other untreated thermal waters.”
  • “Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm, freshwater areas.”
  • “People should use only sterile, distilled, or lukewarm previously boiled water for nasal irrigation or sinus flushes (e.g., Neti Pot usage, ritual nasal ablution, etc.).”

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.