Girl fights for life after ingesting brain-eating parasite while swimming in water park

The deadly microscopic amoeba made its way up 12-year-old Kali Hardig's nose to her brain during a visit to the Willow Springs lake in Arkansas

A 12-year-old girl who went swimming in a US water park is fighting for her life after she contracted a deadly brain-eating parasite.

Kali Hardig fell ill just one day after visiting the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, which has been asked to close by the state’s department of health amid fears it was also the source of another parasite attack three years ago.

The Centre for Disease Protection and Control (CDC) confirmed Kali’s illness was caused by the rare microscopic amoeba Naegleria Fowleri, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba”, which enters the body through the nose and travels up to the brain, causing a devastating infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

“This infection is one of the most severe that we know of. Ninety-nine per cent of people who get it die,” Dr Dirk Haselow from the Arkansas Department of Health told CNN.

Kali was admitted to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital on 19 July, and put into a medically-induced coma. Her mother Traci Hardig believes she can still fight the infection, and has spoken to the US media in order to raise awareness of the rare condition.

She told the Christian Post about her daughter’s symptoms, which came on the day after she swam at Willow Springs: “I couldn't get her fever down. She started vomiting. She'd say her head hurt really bad. She cried, and she would just look at me and her eyes would just kind of roll.

“They call her stable for the moment, she’s just got to ride out all the inflammation, all the side effects that the meningitis caused,” Hardig said on Friday.

The department of health issued a statement about the closure of the water park, which read: “Based on the occurrence of two cases of this rare infection in association with the same body of water and the unique features of the park, the ADH has asked the owner of Willow Springs to voluntarily close the water park to ensure the health and safety of the public.”

The deadly amoeba is most commonly found in warm freshwater, but in extremely rare cases has appeared in poorly-chlorinated swimming pools, the CDC said. It can only reach the brain through water ingested up the nose – infection does not occur from drinking contaminated liquid.

Cases of meningoenchephalitis caused by the parasite are very rare – from 2001 to 2010 there were just 32 reported incidences in the entire of the US. The CDC said there were only two people known to have ever survived the disease in North America.

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