A Florida teenager was recently hospitalized for a rare case of a brain-eating amoeba.
Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, was taken to the emergency room after experiencing what was described to NBC affiliate WBBH from Fort Myers as headaches and hallucinations. Those symptoms began about a week after he and his family took a trip to a beach in Port Charlotte, Florida on July 1.
After the teenager was taken to an emergency room by his parents, doctors at the hospital were told that Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” entered his body through his nose before infecting his brain. In the weeks that followed, he fought for his life in the Golisano children’s hospital.
According to that CDC, Naegleria fowleri is a unicellular organism found in warm freshwater bodies. It can cause a rare infection in the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) if it enters the body through the nose.
Cases of PAM are extremely rare. Infections are more common when prolonged heat causes water levels to drop and water temperatures to rise.
Initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting, followed later by stiff neck, confusion, inattention, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations.
Caleb’s aunt, Katie Chiet, said many people are “not getting to the hospital fast enough” and said the family “hope” they sought help in time.
“Unfortunately, Naegleria fowleri presents as if a child had meningitis,” she said, so it took his family some time to realize his symptoms could be linked to exposure in the water at the beach.
She said since he was in the hospital, the inflammation in the teenager’s brain had grown. in one Facebook Post on July 16, she shared more updates about her nephew, explaining that he’s in intensive care.
“He was extubated last night; he is breathing on his own, stable and loved by his parents,” she wrote. “He’s in a minimally conscious state, so he has very brief periods of consciousness/wake, but other than that he sleeps and fights like hell. His MRI shows more inflammation in his brain, particularly in his nasal passage.”
Chiet called the experience “lonely and isolating.”
“Because we don’t know where we are on any timeline. It’s day 17 and Caleb is still breathing alone. Are we clear? Are we on the healing path? Let’s wait for something else to happen,” she said.
Caleb’s aunt, Elizabeth Ziegelbauer, said her nephew had the “kindest soul,” adding, “He’s so strong. Like the fights out there, that’s what we do. He fights inside with his little heart.”
TODAY has reached out to Chiet and Ziegelbauer for comment, but has not received a response as of the time of this article’s publication.
Earlier this month, another case of Naegleria fowleri was discovered in a Missouri resident who had been exposed at Lake of Three Fires in Iowa, prompting the beach to be temporarily closed.
Less than two weeks later, health officials reported that the person had died.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/teen-hospitalized-infection-caused-brain-eating-amoeba-fighting-little-rcna40025 A teenager hospitalized with an infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba is ‘fighting his little heart’