Girl, 10, Dies After Contracting Brain-Eating Parasite While Swimming In River
A 10-year-old girl has died after contracting a brain-eating parasite while swimming in a river near her home in Texas.
Lily Avant, from Whitney, died nearly one week after doctors confirmed she had contracted Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the ‘brain-eating amoeba’.
The young girl was put in a medically-induced coma while doctors treated swelling in her brain, after she came down with a fever before becoming incoherent and unresponsive.
Lily swam in both the Brazos River and Lake Whitney over the Labor Day weekend at the beginning of September, before complaining of a headache and coming down with a fever the following weekend on September 8, KWTX-TV reports.
Her health quickly deteriorated, and the 10-year-old was first taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. Tragically, doctors could not save her.
In a statement, her family said:
Our beautiful girl is completely healed and in the arms of Jesus. Lily changed lives. Lily saved lives (in the physical and spiritual sense). She brought unity to a divided nation. Which, is just like her!
She loved everyone she came in contact with, and we see you all felt that, via news reports or social media. She taught us so much more in her ten years than we ever taught her.
The cousin of the young girl’s mother, Wendy Scott, told NBC 5 Lily had been taken to a doctor on the night of September 8, when she developed a fever. However, Scott said it was assumed the young girl just had a virus because there were several going around her school, and she was sent home.
Just a couple of days later, on the Tuesday (September 10), Lily woke up unresponsive. ‘She was eyes open, she was there, but she wasn’t speaking. Nothing,’ Scott explained. A spinal tap at Cook Children’s Medical Center confirmed the 10-year-old had contracted Naegleria fowleri.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri, which is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs, is known to cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
The parasite usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose; once it enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM. This is ‘almost always fatal’, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services told PEOPLE.
This is proven by the statistics; according to the CDC, of the 145 people who contracted the infection in the US between 1962 and 2018, only four survived.
Lily’s family now want to raise awareness about Naegleria fowleri in the hope that other families won’t have to go through what they have.
They are urging people to go to the doctor if they start exhibiting any of the symptoms, which start with a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, before progressing to a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations and coma.
They also advise anyone swimming in warm freshwater to wear nose plugs, to prevent the brain-eating parasite from entering the body.
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CreditsKWTX-TV and 4 others
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention