LABELLE, Fla. -- Health officials say a 12-year-old southwest Florida boy is fighting a “brain-eating” amoeba less than one month after a 12-year-old Arkansas girl began suffering the same rare infection.
Family members tell CNN that Zachary Reyna contracted Naegleria fowleri - an amoeba that causes deadly brain infections - while knee boarding with some friends in a ditch near his house in LaBelle, Fla. on Aug. 3.
The single-celled organism is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.
About 120 U.S. cases have been reported since the amoeba was identified in the early 1960s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The victims typically are exposed to the bug while swimming or doing water sports in warm ponds or lakes.
Symptoms start within a week after infection and include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC. Other symptoms include stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
Two other boys playing with Reyna at the time of his infection did not get sick, officials told news-press.com. The boys were playing in a channel in a LaBelle residential area that commonly draws children during the summer.
Zachary is currently in the intensive care unit at Miami Children's Hospital where his family is keeping vigil at his bedside, according to NBC-2 in Fort Meyers.
12-year old Kali Hardig in Arkansas is still fighting her illness. Only three people have ever survived this deadly infection.