Connect with us

Sports

Brain-eating amoeba kills 14-year-old star athlete

Published

on

The fatal brain-eating amoeba has struck once again, this time claiming the life of a 14-year-old star athlete.

Michael John Riley Jr

Michael John Riley Jr

Michael John Riley Jr. had been just days away from starting his freshman year of high school. The Houston teen, who qualified for the Junior Olympics three times in track, was swimming with his cross-country team on August 13 at Sam Houston State Park.

That’s when Michael encountered the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. Within days, the teen’s bad headache turned into a total loss of brain function. He died Sunday.

Dr. Umair Shah said the Harris County, Texas, health department, which he heads, learned of Micheal’s case a few days earlier on August 22. His agency soon became one of many — including the hospital, the state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — involved in the case, trying to pin down the source of his illness and get the word out to the public and health professionals.

Naegleria fowleri are rare, Shah points out. But they can be found waters, especially those that are warm and still.

“It’s such a sad undertaking,” the doctor said of Michael’s story. “(The idea that) someone who had such a fantastic future would get such an amoeba and would be meningococcal meningitis and it’s unfortunately not a good outcome.”

Here’s what to know about the brain-eating parasite:

What is it?

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that can cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

It’s typically found in warm fresh water such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.

“These disease-causing organisms are naturally present in most lakes, ponds, and rivers but multiply rapidly in very warm and stagnant water,” the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.

How do you get it?

People can get infected by swimming or diving into infected, warm bodies of water, the CDC said. The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain.

In extremely rare cases, swimmers can get infected from pools that are not adequately chlorinated.

But it’s impossible to get infected by drinking water contaminated with the amoeba. And infections are not contagious.

How often does it strike?

Very rarely. In the past 53 years, 133 cases have been documented, according to the CDC.

Most of those cases happened in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona and California.

How often is it fatal?

Very often. Of those 133 cases, only three people survived.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Trending