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Brain-eating amoeba 'miracle': Florida teen is 4th survivor in last 50 years

A Florida teenager is alive and recovering after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba, hospital officials said.

Sebastian DeLeon, 16, is the fourth survivor out of 138 cases in the last 50 years in the U.S.

He was treated at the Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando. Doctors discovered he contracted Naegleria fowleri, an infection with a 97 percent fatality rate.

Most cases result in death within 18 days of initial contact with the amoeba.

The teen was on vacation in Florida when he began to complain of strong headaches. He was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 7, where doctors followed Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to treat him.

In combination with drugs, treatment includes induced comas, draining the brain of fluids, lowering the body's temperature and using steroids.

"It's been miraculous to see Sebastian recover right before my eyes from such a fatal and unforgiving infection," Dr. Humberto Liriano, a pediatric intensivist at the hospital, said.

Florida Department of Health officials believe the teen contracted the amoeba while swimming on private property in Broward County.

Commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, ponds and hot springs, humans are infected by the deadly organisms when water containing the amoeba travels through the nose and migrates to the brain, destroying the tissue.

High temperatures in the summer months elevate the risk of coming into contact with the brain-eating amoeba.

Most infections occur during July, August and September when there is prolonged heat and thus higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

The amoeba grows best at high temperatures up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the amoeba can also be found in river or lake sediment where temperatures are below the preferred threshold.

The 16-year-old is still recovering at the hospital but is expected to be able to return home soon.

"I truly believe this was a miracle," Brunilda Gonzalez, Sebastian's mother, said.

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