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Infectious Disease

Boy contracts brain-eating amoeba while playing in ditch

Brain eating amoeba CDC.jpg

Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis. (CDC.gov)

A 12-year-old Florida boy has contracted a deadly brain-eating disease from playing in a ditch near his home.

Zachary Reyna spent Aug. 3 kneeboarding in a ditch by his house. But the typically-active 7th grader seemed to be knocked out for the entire next day.

“We said, ‘Oh, he just has a virus. He just has one of those 24-hour viruses,’” Zachary’s brother, Brandon Villarreal, said. “He slept all day, all night, and that’s when my mom was like, ‘Okay, something’s not right.’”

The next thing his family knew, Zac had been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis — also known as PAM — and was undergoing brain surgery. He is currently in intensive care at Miami Children’s Hospital.

“I wish I could just touch him and it would transfer over or something,” Villarreal said. “It don’t work like that.”

The disease is caused by an amoeba found in still, warm water. Doctors believe it traveled up Zac’s nose and into his brain.

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