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Brain Eating Amoeba

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Health officials say 12-year-old Kali Hardig is alive and responsive after being diagnosed last month with an infection caused by a brain eating amoeba. The amoeba usually enters the body through the nose when people are swimming where the water is warm-- like lakes and rivers.

"It affects the brain and spinal cord and destroys brain tissue and brain cells and the body's reaction to that is to cause brain swelling," says Dr. Jennifer Cope.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the infection is extremely rare - there have only been about 130 cases in the U.S. since the 1960s.

And it's almost always fatal.

"The fact that the Arkansas girl is still alive is remarkable because she would be only the second U.S. survivor," says Dr. Cope.

A 12-year-old Florida boy is also fighting for his life after becoming infected with the amoeba. Friends say he got sick earlier this month after playing in a ditch near his home.

"I just wish I could do something. Praying is all I can do. I can't do anything else. I just wish I could take it away, but I can't."

Symptoms can include headache , fever, nausea and vomiting and followed by a stiff neck, confusion , hallucinations and seizures. But health officials say there are some ways to reduce your risk.

"Avoiding water related activities during periods of high water temperature and low water levels. You can hold your nose or wear nose clips," says Cope.

It's also best to avoid digging in and stirring up the sediment in warm shallow fresh water.

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