Published August 16, 2013
A second life-threatening case of a brain-eating amoeba has been reported; this time, it's 12-year-old Zachary Reyna in Florida.
The rare amoeba, named Naegleria fowleri, is almost always deadly and can be found in warm fresh water, such as lakes and rivers.
Reyna was reportedly knee boarding in a water-filled ditch the day before the infection was confirmed.
"When we go back and look at where exposure may have occurred, we see the infections occur where water levels are low or where there are drought conditions or after a heat wave," Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), told AccuWeather.com.
The incident occurred in Port LaBelle, Fla., roughly 35 miles from Fort Myers, Fla. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the city is not currently experiencing drought conditions. Rainfall for the month has been normal.
However, high temperatures in the area have been in the low to mid-90s for much of August.
Naegleria fowleri is thermophilic, or heat-loving. Most infections occur during July, August and September when there is prolonged heat and thus higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
Shallow, fresh water, such as the ditch Reyna was playing in, can become a breeding ground for the amoeba.
"Most of the cases occur in what we call the southern-tier states, and, in fact, about 50 percent of cases have occurred in Texas and Florida," Cope said.
The amoeba is known to travel up the nose and into the brain, causing the a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, which destroys brain tissue and causes brain swelling and death.
Reyna's infection comes just weeks after a 12-year-old girl contracted the amoeba near Little Rock, Ark. The use of experimental drugs in her treatment has helped her to become the third person ever to survive the infection in the world.
In the last decade from 2003 to 2012, 31 infections have been reported in the U.S.