A high school senior from Georgia has died after becoming infected with what the state’s Department of Health says is a rare “brain-eating amoeba.”
The 17-year-old, named in media reports as Megan Ebenroth, passed away on July 22.
“I’m still in shock,” her mother, identified by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as Christina Ebenroth, said to the newspaper. “But I can’t keep silent about her. She was extraordinary.”
The newspaper reports that Ebenroth, a straight-A student who had aspirations to go to the University of Georgia, went swimming in a lake with friends near her home in McDuffie County in early July before treatment for a migraine turned into an emergency room visit, hospitalization and intubation.
“They were so caring, I had the best doctors and nurses. I don’t blame anyone,” Christina Ebenroth told the Journal-Constitution. “This was an act of God. Right now, I’ve got to figure out why.”
The Georgia Department of Health, citing medical privacy law, told Fox News Digital on Thursday that it was not releasing the name of the individual after issuing a press release warning the public about the passing of a state resident from a “Naegleria fowleri infection, a rare infection which destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and usually death.”
“Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba (single-celled living organism) that lives in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and hot springs,” the department said. “Naegleria fowleri is not found in salt water, such as the ocean, and it is not found in properly treated drinking water and swimming pools.”
“Naegleria fowleri is commonly called the ‘brain-eating amoeba’ because it can cause a brain infection, primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), when water containing the amoeba goes up the nose. It cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person,” added a press release from the agency. “Only about three people in the United States get infected each year, but these infections are usually fatal.”
The department said symptoms of such an infection usually start around day five, beginning with “severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and progress to stiff neck, seizures, and coma that can lead to death.”
It concluded by saying that “[t]hough the risk of infection is low, recreational water users should always assume there is a risk when they enter warm fresh water” and that there have been five other cases of Naegleria fowleri reported in Georgia since 1962.
Ebenroth’s cause of death was ruled as a brain infection, WBJF reports.
She was the president of her school’s Beta Club and vice president of its Spanish Club, in addition to being a member of her high school’s tennis team, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of THS Senior Megan Ebenroth on Saturday, July 22,” Thomson High School said on its Facebook page, adding that “a time of prayer and balloon release” would be held in her memory.