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A Florida boy is said to have been hospitalized for contracting a brain-eating amoeba, also known as Naegleria fowleri, a potentially deadly parasite that attacks brain tissue, after swimming at a local beach.
Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, had visited Port Charlotte Beach Park with his family in early July, according to a GoFundMe that his aunts, Katie Chiet and Elizabeth Ziegelbaur, recently launched.
Five days after his visit, Caleb reported a headache and a day later he had a fever, according to the publication.
He was reportedly taken to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in Ft. Myers on Saturday, July 9.
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The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County told Fox News Digital that, as of July 26, there are no confirmed positive cases of Naegleria fowleri amoeba in Charlotte County, where Caleb was said to be swimming.
Chiet and Ziegelbaur wrote that Caleb was initially diagnosed with meningitis, which shares similarities with the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, but doctors later discovered he had contracted the “brain-eating” amoeba, the post alleged.
Caleb was placed in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, according to his aunts.
Fox News Digital has reached out to media representatives from Lee Health, the health care system that operates Southwest Florida’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, for comment.
The hospital declined to comment due to HIPAA.
Caleb began the treatment protocol established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Naegleria fowleri amoeba on Sunday, July 10, which involved sedation and intubation, Caleb’s aunts shared on the GoFundMe page.
“[He] he has been breathing on his own for almost a full week,” Chiet and Ziegelbaur wrote on GoFundMe. “His MRI from July 20 continues to show damage to his brain, but we are hopeful that he will soon turn the corner and do their way back to us.”
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Caleb’s parents, brother and sister are said to be “safe” and appear not to have contracted the parasite.
By Sunday, July 24, Caleb reportedly received a chest X-ray and a unit of blood, according to a GoFundMe status update. He looks like he is still in care.
Fox News Digital has contacted Chiet and Ziegelbaur for comment.
Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba commonly found in soil and warm, fresh water, according to the CDC.
Humans typically contract it after swimming or diving in lakes, rivers and hot springs, according to the CDC. Poorly chlorinated pools can also be a culprit, although it’s not as common.
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An amoeba thrives in warm temperatures (up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit) and enters the body through the nose when a person’s head is submerged in water.
Since Naegleria fowleri feeds on other organisms such as bacteria, an amoeba can attack brain tissue if not detected early.
“Initial symptoms of [Naegleria fowleri] it begins about 5 days (range 1 to 12 days) after infection,” the CDC says. “Initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms may include a stiff neck, confusion, inattention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.”
The CDC continued: “After the onset of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days (range 1 to 18 days).”
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The health agency notes that “Occurrence of Naegleria fowleri is common, infections are rare,” but recreational water users should assume it is present in warm freshwater throughout the country.
Of the 154 documented cases of Naegleria fowleri in the US, the amoeba has a fatality rate greater than 97%, according to the CDC.
Chiet and Ziegelbaur wrote that the family is hopeful Caleb can fight off the infection. They started the GoFundMe to “take some of the load off” their parents, who remain at their bedside.
Fox News Digital has contacted Charlotte County for comment on the presence of Naegleria fowleri in the waters of Port Charlotte Beach Park.
The CDC says people can limit their chances of getting Naegleria fowleri by avoiding warm fresh water, swimming above water if it can’t be avoided, and wearing a nose clip or holding their nose while swimming.
People should also avoid digging or removing sediment in watery areas.