Parents raising awareness about 'brain-eating' amoeba

VIDEO: Parents working to spread awareness about 'brain-eating' amoeba

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Parents are working to spread awareness about the so-called "brain-eating amoeba" to make sure a heartbreaking loss doesn't happen to your family.

Children and adults across the country have lost their lives because of a fatal brain infection called Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

The most recent fatality occurred Friday night when an 11-year-old Beaufort County girl lost her life. Health officials believe she contracted the amoeba infection on July 24 while swimming in the Edisto River.

Jeremy Lewis lost his son, Kyle, to the deadly amoeba and now works full time to make people aware of the dangers. He has created the website KyleCares.com to help spread the word.

The website calls the amoeba "99 percent fatal and 100 percent preventable."

"People say that this is rare, and the fact that it happens five to seven times every single summer," he said. "Truth be known is it's not rare, what's rare is that these doctors are actually catching this and detecting it fast enough to where there is a hope that someone can survive."

The amoeba is almost always deadly once it gets into the brain, health officials say.

"In Kyle's case, we took him to the hospital on a Thursday at 9 p.m. and he was gone that Sunday at 11:11," Lewis said.

He said parents should take steps to protect their families.

"You can keep your head above the water, you can put a nose plug on them, or from parent to parent, you can simply choose to do something else," he says. "I can tell you as far as my family and I are concerned, that one week, that one weekend, that one swim was not worth my child's life."

The Centers for Disease Control's website states humans become infected when water containing Naegleria fowleri enters the nose, usually while swimming. The amoeba migrates to the brain along the olfactory nerve, through a bony plate in the skull called the cribriform plate, where it reaches the brain and begins to destroy the brain tissue.

People do not get infected by drinking contaminated water.

However, six cases in the U.S. were associated with using water from drinking water systems to swim or use a slip-n-slide, immersing the head in a bathtub, mixing solutions for nasal irrigation using a neti pot, or performing ritual nasal rinsing or ablution, the site states.

Infections are most common during the summer in July and August in the northern hemisphere when water temperatures peak, the site states.

For more information on the infection, visit the CDC's website: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/

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