Published On: Wed, Jul 24th, 2013

Arkansas girl being treated for ‘possible’ parasitic meningitis

A 12-year-old Central Arkansas girl is currently being treated at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for a “possible” case of parasitic meningitis, according to an Arkansas Matters report today.

Traci Hardig, mother of the patient, said her daughter Kali started showing symptoms after swimming recently.

Naegleria fowleri Image/CDC

Naegleria fowleri








“I kinda brushed it off that she was really tired. We let her go to sleep. When she didn’t wake up the next day, I knew that wasn’t Kali,”said Hardig.

The Benton mother said doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital have diagnosed her 12-year-old daughter with parasitic meningitis.

However, due to privacy concerns, Arkansas state health officials would no release details on the case.

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Parasitic meningitis is caused by a single celled, free-living amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, the “brain eating amoeba”.

This relatively rare, pathogenic amoeba is found in warm or hot freshwater like lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is also possible to get it from dirty unchlorinated or under-chlorinated swimming pools. This parasite is found worldwide and in the United States, it is found in mainly in the southern-tier states.

People typically contract this parasite when contaminated water rushes up the nose when jumping into the water. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). From here it destroys brain tissue with a fatality rate of well over 99 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), initial symptoms of PAM start about 5 days (range 1 to 7 days) after infection. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days (range 1 to 12 days).

It is a rather rare infections with some 128 known cases recorded in the US since 1962; however, there is only one known survivor. And in the one survivor, it has been suggested that the survivor’s strain of Naegleria fowleri was less virulent.

Treatment for this parasite has been unsatisfactory.

Arkansas health officials say the illness is so rare and serious, only five Arkansans have been diagnosed in the last 40 years. All five of them died.

Hardig advises parents, “If your child has been swimming anywhere this summer and they start complaining about their head hurting and running a fever or just not acting normal, go to the doctor.”

You should always assume there is some risk when swimming in freshwater. The location and number of amoeba present in a body of water varies from time to time. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends these four steps to reduce your risk of infection:

• Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
• Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
• Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. The Top 10 Infectious Disease and Outbreak News stories of 2013 - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] First reported in July, the 12-year-old Benton, Arkansas girl contracted the 95-99% fatal ameba, Naegleria fowleri at a Arkansas waterpark. […]

  2. Arkansas girl, Kali Hardig making great progress in her recovery, What is this experimental anti-amoeba drug? - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] of Arkansas about the condition of 12-year-old Kali Hardig has been remarkable to say the least. Approximately two weeks ago, Kali was diagnosed with the nearly 100% fatal “brain-eating amoeba”, Naegleria […]

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  5. Arkansas reports sixth case of parasitic meningitis in four decades, Willow Springs Water Park the likely source - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] the identity of the patient was not identified by ADH, news reports Wednesday say the victim was a 12-year-old girl who contracted the parasite by […]

  6. Parasitic meningitis, caused by Naegleria fowleri, confirmed in Arkansas girl - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] a follow up to a story Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reportedly confirmed a case of parasitic […]

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