Family warning others after daughter dies from 'brain eating amoeba'

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Family Issues Warning After Young Mom Dies from 'Brain-Eating' Amoeba

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) - Before you hit the water this season, an Oklahoma family is warning you of a deadly disease.

It is caused by a microorganism known as the "brain eating amoeba."

Doctors say the disease is rare; there have only been 138 cases in the United States since 1962.

However, it is extremely deadly.

In fact, officials say only three of those people have survived.

EXPLORE MORE: Singer Grimmie dies after Orlando shooting, suspect dead

One of those who did not is the Alonie McKown's daughter, Elizabeth Knight.

"She had a smile that could light up a room," Alonie McKown cried.

It is a smile they now only get to see in pictures.

See photos of Elizabeth Knight and her family:

7 PHOTOS
Woman dies from brain eating amoeba
See Gallery
Family warning others after daughter dies from 'brain eating amoeba'
Photo via KFOR 
Photo via KFOR 
Photo via KFOR 
Photo via KFOR 
Photo via KFOR 
Photo via KFOR 
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"Just getting up every day, putting one foot in front of the other has been difficult," her father, Mike McKown, said.

A fun day at Lake Murray in August of 2015 turned into tragedy for the family.

Just a few days after taking her two young kids for a swim, Elizabeth fell ill.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump still insists Don King endorsed him, despite King's denial

What started as a severe headache got much worse.

"Her roommate had said that she woke up stumbling through the house. She was incoherent," her mother said.

Elizabeth was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, but when she continued to rapidly deteriorate, doctors started asking more questions.

"The history of her having an exposure to freshwater, swimming in Lake Murray, freshwater lake, was exposed at that time, and that's the first time that Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis was brought up," Mike said.

It was the disease called "PAM" that took the 24-year-old's life.

"It is extremely rare, but it can cause swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord," Joli Stone, an epidemiologist, said. "It's caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri."

Health experts say the amoeba is found in warm, fresh bodies of water like lakes, rivers and ponds.

They say the free-living organism travels up the nose and into the brain.

SEE MORE: Shirtless Trump protester interrupts NBA finals game

Symptoms typically start one to nine days after it is contracted.

"They start off usually with a high fever then nausea and vomiting, and then later develop altered mental status and even coma," Stone explained.

Though nothing can bring Elizabeth back, her parents are keeping her memory alive by raising awareness about the disease.

"There's no doubt in our mind that she would want us to do everything we could to prevent this from happening to another family," Mike said.

They are not asking you to not enjoy Oklahoma's great lakes.

They just want you to take precautions, like wearing a nose plug or holding your nose before you go under.

To learn more, visit Beth Smiles Amoeba Awareness and the CDC's website.

RELATED: Click through to see other diseases and infections:

12 PHOTOS
Various bacteria, diseases, infections
See Gallery
Family warning others after daughter dies from 'brain eating amoeba'

Lactobacillus

(Photo by Sebastian Kaulitzki via Getty Images)

E.coli bacteria

(Photo by Ian Cuming via Getty Images)

S. pyrogens, a nonmotile, pathogenic bacteria. Commonly associated with septic sore throat infections (known as 'strep throat') & scarlet fever.

(Photo by S. Lowry/Univ Ulster via Getty Images)

Influenza virus particle surrounded by some floating red blood cells

(Photo by Ralf Hiemisch via Getty Images)

Cyanobacteria

(Photo by Ed Reschke via Getty Images)

Microscopic Image of Escherichia Coli

(Photo by Duncan Smith via Getty Images)

MRSA Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria outside a white blood cell

(Photo by Science Stills via Getty Images)

Microscopic Image of Neisseria Gonorrhoeae

(Photo by Duncan Smith via Getty Images)

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

(Photo by G W Willis via Getty Images)

Microscopic Image of Clostridium Tetani

(Photo by Duncan Smith via Getty Images)

Cyanobacteria in stream

(Photo by Mint Images, Frans Lanting via Getty Images)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners