13-year-old Florida boy killed by rare brain-eating amoeba, says family

‘He was just somebody you always wanted to be around,’ father says

Louise Hall
Friday 11 September 2020 00:44
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13 year old killed by brain eating ameoba from campsite river

A 13-year-old boy has died in Florida after becoming infected by a rare brain-eating amoeba, his family has said.

The parents of Tanner Lake Wall, 13, of Palatka, Florida, told local broadcaster WJXT that their teenage son died suddenly after contracting the amoeba while on vacation.

Travis Wall, the boys father, told the outlet Tanner died on 2 August after he was diagnosed with Naegleria fowleri following symptoms of nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and severe headaches.

“He was just somebody you always wanted to be around,” Mr Wall said of his son, who had just turned 13.

“He was very active. He loved the outdoors. He loves hunting, fishing,” said Alicia Whitehill, his mother.

The family said Tanner got sick after two days of swimming with friends and family. After being taken to hospital UF Health in Gainesville he was put on a ventilator and doctors made the tragic diagnosis, the parents said.

“They said, ‘We’re sorry to tell you this, but your son does not have bacterial meningitis. He has a parasitic amoeba, and there is no cure,’” Mr Wall told the outlet.

Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba” can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

The agency says that the amoeba lives in freshwater located in southern-tier states and can infect a persons brain when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. They stipulate you cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.

The boys parents are hoping to raise awareness of the condition and when it can be contracted “so parents are aware.”

“Maybe they weren’t thinking about it because I can sure tell you we weren’t,” Mr Wall said. “We grew up swimming in ponds and creeks and stuff like that.”

“People need to be aware from July to the latter part of September, with the hot waters, that this amoeba, it can come up your nose. It can be diving. It can be swimming, water sports, skiing, things like that,” he added.

The CDC states that Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, and that in the 10 years from 2009 to 2018, 34 infections were reported in the US.

While the boy’s parents are lobbying for signs to be put up, warning people about the dangers in warm waters, especially in the summertime, the CDC states that actions to reduce the risk of infection should focus on limiting the amount of water going up the nose.

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