What you can’t see can indeed hurt you, as proven in the tragic case of a young girl from Kansas.
A rare brain-eating amoeba killed Hally Yust, 9, on Wednesday.
According to WDAF-TV, Yust went to the hospital with meningitis-like symptoms and doctors discovered an infection from Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba lives in fresh water, which Yust was exposed to, although investigators could not determine the exact source.
“Our precious daughter, Hally, loved life and part of her great joy was spending time playing in the water,” her family said in a statement.
There have been fewer than 200 cases in the United States in more than 50 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None have been in Illinois.
Despite the low frequency of infection, the fatality rate is very high. There has been only one victim who survived, said Tiffany Geiger, the investigator with the Johnson County Health Department.
“The amoeba goes up through the nose and into the brain and once it’s there, there’s really nothing anybody can do,” Geiger said.
Fresh-water swimmers can lower their risk by wearing nose plugs or avoiding warmer water temperatures.
Yust’s family also said they hope others will not live in fear of the rare organism, and they will continue to participate in water sports despite the tragedy. They have set up a scholarship fund in her honor.