A teenage boy is fighting for his life after contracting a brain-eating amoeba on a popular beach.
An amoeba is type of cell or unicellular organism which has the ability to alter its shape.
Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, was swimming at Port Charlotte Beach in Florida on July 1 when he caught the deadly infection.
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Five days after his swim he complained of a headache before coming down with fever and disorientation.
Caleb was rushed to hospital where it was eventually confirmed that the amoeba was making him ill.
He was initially diagnosed with meningitis and placed in the Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU), reports the Mirror.
In most amoeba-infection cases, sufferers show no symptoms as the organism lives quietly in their gut.
However, in some the parasite attacks the gut itself and can cause potentially-fatal diarrhoea, intestinal ulcers and liver abscesses.
Speaking about the heartbreak the family has endured, Caleb’s aunt Katie Chiet told NBC2: “A lot of times people don’t get to the hospital quickly enough. We’re hoping that we did."
Another aunt Elizabeth Ziegelbauer added: “He’s just the kindest soul but he’s so strong. He’s so strong. Like the fighting on the outside, that’s what we’re doing.
“He is fighting his little heart out on the inside.”
Aunt Katie said Caleb was showing symptoms for a couple of days before the family realised that where he went swimming could have been the cause of the amoeba.
“He started to receive the CDC protocol to treat the amoeba on July 10,” she wrote in a GoFundMe post.
“He required a brief period of sedation and incubation but has been breathing on his own for almost a full week now!
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“His MRI scan from 7/20 continues to show damage in his brain left by the amoeba but we remain hopeful that he’ll turn the corner soon and make his way back to us.”
Elizabeth and Katie added in the post that they were raising money "to be able to take some burden off of them so they can continue to fight on the outside so Caleb can fight on the inside".
To donate to Caleb's GoFundMe, click here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria Fowleri is a rare disease which is almost always fatal, with only four out of 154 people in the US having survived it from 1962 to 2021.
It causes a rare infection of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.
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