Nine-year-old girl dies of brain-eating amoebic infection

14 July 2014

A 9-year-old Kansas girl, a water sports enthusiast, died from a rare infection from a brain-eating amoeba found in freshwater, according to Kansas health officials, The Washington Post reported.

Hally Yust of Spring Hill, Kansas, died last week, according to her obituary, after allegedly contracting an infection known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in warm freshwater.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose, which typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers.

The organism then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue.

State health officials have yet to determine where Hally contracted the infection, as she had apparently been swimming in several area lakes. This, however, was only the second known case of PAM caused by Naegleria fowleri in Kansas, according to officials; the first was reported in 2011.

Meanwhile, according to doctors, the girl who was in good health before contracting the condition, was possibly infected when water entered her nose, possibly as she water skied, News Channel Daily reported.

The Naegleria floweri amoeba is known to invade and attack the nervous system of a human host's brain, which results in the person developing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare condition with a 95 per cent fatality rate.

The organism then attaches itself to the olfactory nerve and from there it migrates to the olfactory bulbs. As it feeds on the tissue it causes significant necrosis and hemorrhaging.

Travelling along the nerve fibres, it enters the cranium and into the brain continuing to cause similar damage. Once it is insider the brain, it causes primary amoebic menigoencephalitis, which eventually shuts down the nervous system.

Experts point out that while the chances of coming in contact with the amoebae are low, swimmers and water skiers could use nose plugs to avoid the risk. Proper chlorination of swimming pools and wading areas for children should be properly, and the checking of chemicals a routine basis should be carried out as additional precautionary measures.

The organism can travel through ground water, man-made pools and therefore may not be proof against exposure, even if they are not connected to other natural water systems.

However, Hally's family told reporters they did not want people to be afraid to enjoy the water. In a release to local media they said, ''Our precious daughter Hally loved life and part of her great joy in life was spending time playing in the water.

Her life was taken by a rare amoeba organism that grows in many different fresh water settings. We want you to know this tragic event is very, very rare, and this is not something to become fearful about.

We hope you will not live in fear of this rare infection that took our daughter's life. Our family is very active in water sports, and we will continue to be.''

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