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Florida teen beats odds, survives brain-eating amoeba

August 24, 2016

A 16-year-old camp counselor beat long medical odds to survive a brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of people who are infected.

Sebastian DeLeon contracted the Naegleria fowleri infection after swimming on private property in Broward County, Florida Department of Health officials believe.

The teenager developed meningitis-like symptoms on Aug. 5 during a family vacation, followed by an intensive headache that meant he could not tolerate people touching him, said Dr. Humberto Liriano, a pediatric intensivist at Florida Hospital for Children.

DeLeon’s family took him to the Florida Hospital for Children, where doctors began treatment that included a chemically induced coma and lowering his body temperature.

Within hours of removing his breathing tube, Sebastian began to speak.

The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. If the amoeba enters the body through the nose, it can cause an extremely rare and devastating infection of the brain, said Dr. Rajan Wadhawan, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

He said in the past 50 years, only four people out of a reported 138 cases in the United States have survived.