Teen Dies From Brain-Eating Amoeba

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Kerry StoutenburghKerry Stoutenburgh

A New York teenager died from a rare, brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a stream that flows from Pennsylvania to Maryland.

Kerry Stoutenburgh, 19, died from the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which is also referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” after vacationing in Cecil County, Maryland, in August, the New York Department of Health confirmed to Penn Live.

According to the girl’s uncle, she swam in two areas -- Octoraro Creek and North East Creek.

The brain-eating amoeba is commonly found in freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, according to the CDC. When contaminated water enters the human body through the nose, the amoeba then travels to the brain, causing a primary amebic meningoencephalitis infection. The infection is usually fatal, and causes death within five days after symptoms appear.

The initial symptoms associated with PAM are a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. It then progresses to cause a stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status and hallucinations.

Due to the rapid onset of PAM, most diagnoses are made after death.

Swallowing water containing the brain-eating amoeba does not cause a PAM infection.

Of all the well-documented cases of PAM, only four survived the infection.

Cecil County Health Department spokesman Gregg Bortz told Penn Live that the CDC does not recommend testing untreated freshwater for Naegleria fowleri because it is a naturally occurring amoeba, and the relationship between detection or concentration does not necessarily reflect the risk of infection.

"It's a low risk, but it is a present risk," Bortz said. "Our primary message has been for people to exercise precautions in any fresh water."

A GoFundMe page has been created for the Stoutenburgh family. It states that the teen is “believed to be the first person in the State of New York and the State of Maryland to die from the extremely rare parasite.”

Sources: Penn Live, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, GoFundMe / Photo credit: GoFundMe

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