Florida boy Caleb Ziegelbauer battles deadly brain-eating amoeba

The Florida teenager who is fighting for his life after being infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba has already beaten all odds by surviving for a month.

The median survival time from infection with Naegleria fowleri, the scientific name for the amoeba, is just five days, and the disease it causes, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, is fatal in 97% of cases. , according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. .

“Only four of 154 known infected people in the United States from 1962 to 2021 survived,” the agency said.

Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, is thought to have been infected with the amoeba when he went swimming on July 1 at Port Charlotte Beach, about 100 miles south of Tampa, Florida.

Caleb Ziegelbauer survived for a month battling Naegleria fowleri infection.
GoFundMe

The amoeba is found worldwide, but the CDC says it thrives in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Although still a rare infection, these are exactly the conditions experienced in the United States this summer, with heat waves and droughts hitting many states.

It is found in warm fresh water, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs, and can even appear in poorly maintained pools. It cannot survive in salt water and cannot spread from person to person.

Infections mostly occur in July, August and September, and while more likely in the South – Florida had 36 cases between 1962 and 2021 and Texas 40 – some northern states have seen them, including Minnesota, famous for its lakes, which reported two. case. No cases have been reported in New York or the surrounding northeastern states.

Caleb was taken off blood pressure and other medications and while still on a ventilator his breathing is gaining strength, his aunt Katie Chiet posted on a GoFundMe page to raise money for the treatment of Caleb. ‘teenager.

Initial samples of his spinal fluid sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control were negative for Naegleria fowleri, but doctors at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers, where he is being treated, said that was the cause. likely of his infection, according to local reports. .

Caleb’s progress came when a second person, a Missouri resident who was infected after swimming in an Iowa lake, died of the virus earlier this month. Last year, at least two children in the United States died from these infections, one in North Carolina and one in Texas.

The amoeba is believed to thrive during heat waves.
The amoeba is believed to thrive during heat waves.
CDC

A big challenge in amoeba cases is getting the diagnosis right – it can take weeks for the amoeba to be identified, and it’s often too late for the victim who is infected. But even then, there is no specific treatment for the infection, according to the CDC.

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