Girl, 12, Battles Brain-Eating Amoeba After Lake Swim

Kali Hardig in critical condition in Arkansas

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 30, 2013 8:23 AM CDT

(Newser) – Kali Hardig, 12, went swimming in a Little Rock, Ark., lake earlier this month—and, in a nightmare scenario, she's now battling a brain-eating parasite. Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba that gets to the brain through the nose, typically infecting people who go swimming in freshwater, CNN reports. But it's very rare and very deadly: "Ninety-nine percent of people who get it die," says a health department official with the state, which has seen just five confirmed cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis between 1962 and 2012.

CNN identifies a sandy-bottomed lake at Willow Springs Water Park as the likely source of Kali's infection. Another case was linked to the water park in 2010, and the department of health has asked the park to shut down; it complied. The girl's mom tells the Christian Post, "I couldn't get her fever down. She started vomiting. She'd say her head hurt really bad. She cried, and she would just look at me and her eyes would just kind of roll." Kali was admitted to the hospital on July 19 and put into a medically-induced coma. Her mom tells Fox 16 she wants to raise awareness of the importance of nose clips while swimming in rivers or lakes. She is confident Kali will beat the odds, but ABC News notes that just one of the 128 people infected with Naegleria fowleri in the US over the last five decades survived. (Swimming proved deadly for another girl—though for a much different reason—last week.)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   (CDC)
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