Brain-Eating Parasite Claims Boy's Life


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Zachary Reyna, the twelve-year-old Florida youth, died on Saturday after coming into contact with a brain-eating parasite.

Members of Zachary Reyna's family told WBBH that they believe Zachary came into contact with the amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, while he was kneeboarding in a shallow gully. The gully served as the perfect breeding ground for the parasite due to the shallow level combined with the higher temperatures of the water.

Zachary Reyna was unusually listless and tired, which prompted the concern of his parents who took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with amoebic meningeoencephalitis and underwent emergency surgery.

According to Dr. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health, "This infection is one of the most severe infections that we know of, ninety-nine percent of people who get it die."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) details symptoms for the public where the first observable signs are typically fever and headache. These symptoms usually manifest themselves within the first seven days after contact with the parasite. According to the CDC, "Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days."

Even though the amoeba attacks the brain, the passage of entry is typically the nose, which is why using nose plugs are advised while engaging in water recreational activities in shallow, warm water.

Supporters of the brave boy shared the sad news through a Facebook post that read, “The battle is over for Zac but he won the war.” The post went on to further eulogize the lasting memory in which the tragedy took a heroic individual who had only just gotten started in life. "Even though Zac has passed, he will still be saving many lives."

[Image via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of CDC]