Zachary Reyna, a 12-year-old from southwest Florida, is in intensive care at the Miami Children's Hospital after he contracted Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that is found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, and destroys brain tissues, reports said.
Health officials in Florida told Associated Press, on Tuesday, that the amoeba attack has caused an infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, in Reyna’s brain and could prove fatal.
"The effects of PAM on the individuals who contract the amoeba are tragic," Carina Blackmore, Florida's interim state epidemiologist, told AP. "We want to remind Floridians to be wary when swimming, jumping or diving in fresh water when water temperatures are high and water levels are low. If you are partaking in recreational swimming activities during this time, please take necessary precautions and remind your family and friends to do the same."
Reyna's family told AP that the boy could have contracted the disease after knee boarding with friends near his LaBelle, Fla., home on Aug. 3. The next day, Reyna, an active seventh-grader, slept through the day, which worried his mother who took him to a hospital, where he had brain surgery.
The infection is very rare, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been only 128 people infected with PAM since 1962. And, although the outcome is almost always fatal, three people have successfully battled the disease, the Huffington Post reported.
In July, Kali Harding, another 12-year-old, also contracted the brain-eating amoeba after visiting the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Ark. Harding is currently recovering after undergoing treatment, and this has given hopes to Reyna’s family about his chances of successfully battling the disease.
Harding's mother posted a message about Reyna on the Prayers For Kali Facebook page on Monday asking people to include Reyna in their prayers.
“Kali and I are asking for you all to add Zachary to your prayers. Zachary is a 12 year old boy in FL battle the same thing Kali has. We want prayers 4 # 4 !!!! You got this!!!! Kali's Krew loves you and is supporting you all the way!! Slow and steady wins the race!” the message read.