10-year-old girl dies from 'brain-eating' amoeba after swimming in Texas river

A 10-year-old girl died Monday after contracting a rare, brain-eating amoeba during a weekend swimming trip, according to KWTX-TV

Lily Avant was swimming in the Brazos River — near her home of Whitney, Texas — over Labor Day weekend when she likely contracted the amoeba. She began suffering from symptoms, such as fever and headaches, a few days later, according to a Facebook post by her cousin, Wendy Scott.

"I need my prayers warriors now! My little cousin is in ICU and is unresponsive," the Sept. 10 post read. "She just sent me this picture on Saturday and selfies she took on my phone a few days ago. Things change so quickly."

Doctors originally treated Lily for a viral infection, but after her condition worsened she was taken to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. A spinal tap confirmed that she had contracted Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba with a 97 percent fatality rate.

As her condition worsened, Lily was put into a medically induced coma to help reduce brain swelling. Patients who contract the amoeba usually die within five days after presenting symptoms, but, as Lily managed to survive for longer, her family remained hopeful. 

"We hope we got to her in time," John Crawson, Lily's father, told KXAS-TV on Friday. "She is a fighter. She is stronger than anybody I know."

Sadly, the 10-year-old died in her hospital room early Monday morning. Only four people who have contracted the amoeba in the United States since 1962 have survived.

Naegleria fowleri is incredibly rare in the U.S., with only 34 reported cases in the past 10 years. The amoeba is commonly found in natural environments such as lakes and streams. However, it's also been discovered in swimming pools and tap water. The rarity of the circumstances was not lost on Lily's family.

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Brain-eating amoeba - Naegleria fowleri
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Brain-eating amoeba - Naegleria fowleri
This photomicrograph of a brain tissue specimen depicts the cytoarchitectural changes associated with a free-living, Naegleria fowleri, amebic infection. When free-living amebae infect the brain or spinal cord, the condition is known as primary amebic men
This photomicrograph of a brain tissue specimen depicts the cytoarchitectural changes associated with a free-living, Naegleria fowleri, amebic infection. When free-living amebae infect the brain or spinal cord, the condition is known as primary amebic men
Under a magnification of 630X, and implementing a the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) staining technique, this photomicrograph depicts histopathologic characteristics associated with a case of amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri parasites. Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the ameba enters the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. The Naegleria fowleri ameba then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue. Image courtesy CDC/Dr. Visvesvara, 1980. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
This photomicrograph of a brain tissue specimen depicts the cytoarchitectural changes associated with a free-living amebic infection, which may have been caused by either a Naegleria fowleri, or an Acanthamoeba sp. Naegleria fowleri produces an acute, and usually lethal, central nervous system (CNS) disease called primary amebic meingoencephalitis (PAM). Trophozoites infect humans or animals by entering the olfactory neuroepithelium and reaching the brain. N. fowleri trophozoites are found in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and tissue, while flagellated forms are occasionally found in CSF. Image courtesy CDC/Dr. Martin D. Hicklin, 1964. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
This photomicrograph of a brain tissue specimen depicts the cytoarchitectural changes associated with a free-living amebic infection, which may have been caused by either a Naegleria fowleri, or an Acanthamoeba sp. Naegleria fowleri produces an acute, and usually lethal, central nervous system (CNS) disease called primary amebic meingoencephalitis (PAM). Trophozoites infect humans or animals by entering the olfactory neuroepithelium and reaching the brain. N. fowleri trophozoites are found in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and tissue, while flagellated forms are occasionally found in CSF. Image courtesy CDC/Dr. Martin D. Hicklin, 1964. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
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"It's every parent's worst nightmare," Lily's aunt, Crystal Warren, told KWTX-TV on Friday. "For this to happen to her when there were so many other people in the same waters on the same days — we just don't understand why it was her."

The community had rallied around Lily during her fight, with a #LilyStrong Facebook page gaining more than 21,000 members over the past week. The page has been flooded with posts — more than 600 — with members sharing thoughts, prayers, videos and photos of Lily. 

"She is just an outstanding young girl and we are all devastated but we're also very hopeful," Chris Dowdy, the principal at Lily's school told KWTX before she died. "We're behind you were here for you and we can't wait to get Lily back on this campus."

"We are standing firm in our faith and the lives she touched," Scott told WFAA-TV

 

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