Teenage girl dies from brain eating amoeba after swimming in lake

A teenager in Georgia was killed by a brain-eating amoeba she caught after swimming in a lake.

The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed that a state resident died from a rare brain infection caused by naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba.

‘The individual was likely infected while swimming in a freshwater lake or pond in Georgia,’ public health authorities said. She is the sixth person to die from the amoeba in Georgia since 1962.

The victim’s parents identified her as 17-year-old Megan Ebenroth, a straight-A student at Thomson High School who was set to start her senior year in the fall semester.

‘It just doesn’t feel real,’ her mother Chrissy Ebenroth told 11 Alive News. ‘”It seems like she’s going to walk into my house at any moment. It just doesn’t feel like this has happened to us.’

Ebenroth went swimming in a Georgia lake on July 11. In the following days, she began experiencing severe headaches and losing her balance.

She was eventually hospitalized, where she was intubated and placed in a medically-induced coma.

Just 11 days after being exposed to the amoeba, she succumbed to the infection.

Naegleria fowleri is ‘very common’ in the environment and ‘cannot be controlled,’ the Georgia Department of Public Health said.

The amoeba infects people when water from lakes, rivers, and hot springs enters the body through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It can also occasionally be found in tap water, but drinking water containing the amoeba does not lead to infections.

‘No method currently exists that accurately and reproducibly measures the numbers of amebae in the water,’ the Centers for Disease Control said.

However, infection remains rare. Only 29 Americans contracted naegleria fowleri between 2013 and 2022.

Researchers are unsure why naegleria fowleri infects some swimmers, but seems to ignore others.

Symptoms of the infection typically begin with a severe frontal headache, as well as fever, nausea, and vomiting.

As the infection progresses, victims tend to experience stiff necks, seizures, and hallucinations before falling into a coma.

Once symptoms begin, the infection progresses rapidly. Victims typically die within one to five days later.

Ebenroth’s parents said their teenage daughter could not walk or communicate before her death on July 22.

To reduce the risk of exposure to brain-eating amoebas, the Georgia Department of Public Health said swimmers should avoid jumping into and holding their head underneath bodies of warm fresh water – especially hot springs.

People should also avoid digging into and stirring up the sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and rivers.

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