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A Florida college student was unable to climb stairs and write after a deadly brain-eating amoeba he caught “cannonballing” in a stagnant pond left him underweight and brain damaged.
Sebastian Deleon, now 22, of Weston, Florida, has revealed his experience after catching the brain-eating amoeba — scientifically named Naegleria fowleri. He said it initially gave him severe headaches, before becoming sensitive to the sun and having trouble standing. He is one of four lucky ones to survive the infection out of 154 known cases
Sebastian Deleon, now 22, of Weston, is one of four lucky people who survived an infection with the amoeba — called Naegleria fowleri — out of 154 cases recorded in the United States. He was infected six years ago at the age of 16.
In the early stages, he was afflicted with a severe headache that felt as if a slippery stone was ‘pushing’ on his head. It soon left him unable to get up and required sunglasses “even when the sun didn’t shine,” forcing his parents to rush him to the hospital.
While he was there, doctors gave him seven antibiotics and he went into an artificial coma. When he came to about a week later, he needed about three weeks of rehab to regain much of his strength.
Experts are urging Americans to be aware of the amoeba lurking in waterways across the country, saying global warming — heating stagnant pools farther north in the country — makes it a risk in other areas.
After being in a coma for about a week, Deleon was transferred to a rehabilitation center to help regain his strength. He is pictured here learning to walk up and down stairs again
In the photo above, he is strengthening his legs at Joe Dimaggio’s Children’s Rehabilitation Center rehabilitation center in Hollywood, Florida.
Doctors diagnosed him with the brain-eating amoeba after tests of his brain showed he was infected (pictured above are the amoeba that infected him)
Deleon was rushed to hospital by his parents in 2016 (pictured above) after suffering severe headaches
Revealing how he fought the amoeba in 2016, Deleon told Click Orlando: ‘The first years were quite tough.
“The part I remember most is the part I was in rehab. It was hard, I had to learn to walk, write again, do all the basic things again.’
What is Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis?
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis is a rare and usually fatal brain infection.
It is activated by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which enters the body when ingested through the nose.
Once an infection is established, it spreads nerves to the brain where it destroys tissue.
Patients initially experience headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
But in the later stages, they can also have hallucinations and seizures.
About 97 percent of people who become infected with the amoeba die from the disease.
The symptoms started days after he became infected while visiting theme parks in nearby Orlando with his parents.
Initially he had severe headaches. But, he said, ‘This headache was different. It felt more like – the description I kept saying in the hospital was that it felt like there was a smooth rock on my head and someone was pushing it down.”
It then got so bad that, “I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t move and things like that, so my parents said, ‘Okay, there’s something wrong with this kid. We need to take him somewhere.”
‘We got in the car. It felt like I was on one of those roller coasters that went round and round and round, and I had to wear sunglasses, and the sun wasn’t even out.’
When asked where he caught it, Deleon said it probably came from the stagnant lake he’d jumped “about two or three times” into.
The amoeba is present in small concentrations in most waters, but when these stagnate and warm up, this risk increases.
It infects people when water gets in their nose, but there are no known cases of it being passed from one person to another.
When he arrived at the hospital in late August, doctors said, Deleon was immediately given seven different antibiotics. These include impavido, which some experts suggest may help patients better than others.
He was then kept in a coma for about a week, and scans revealed that the amoeba had caused damage to his brain, while also losing about 20 pounds.
But when his condition began to improve, he was awakened again and sent to Joe Dimaggio’s pediatric rehabilitation center to regain his strength.
During this time, nurses helped him gain the strength to go up and down stairs again, improving muscles so he could lift more than 5 pounds.
He is much better now and even told a medical meeting in 2017 that he was more concerned about his schoolwork than about the illness.
The amoeba that caused his illness is fatal in about 97 percent of cases, even when given the treatment.
Deleon (pictured in 2016) contracted the disease when he was just 16 years old. He is one of only four people in America known to have survived
In 2017, he attended a medical conference, pictured, where he told medics that he was now more concerned about his schoolwork than his infection with the amoeba
Deleon is pictured above (second from left) with family members following him as he is released from the hospital
It is present worldwide in soils and freshwater in low concentrations, but usually only becomes a threat when water is heated above 115F (46C) and multiplies to much larger numbers. this happens during the summer months.
People who get the disease initially experience symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck.
But in the later stages, these can develop into seizures, hallucinations, and an altered mental state.
It is caught almost exclusively by swimming in hot standing water — when water enters swimmers’ noses — where it infects the olfactory nerve and travels the short distance to the brain. There are no known cases of people passing it on between each other.
Caleb Ziegelbauer (pictured), 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida, died after an infection of the brain that ate amoeba
dr. Anjan Debnath, a parasitic disease expert at the University of California, San Diego, told DailyMail.com last week that the disease is “quite fast” and “literally eats brain tissue.”
He warned because it’s so rare that doctors often misdiagnose it as another disease like meningitis — wasting precious time that could be used to save the patient.
There are also concerns that the amoeba is moving north due to global warming. At present, it is normally only found in the southern United States.
But this year, a man died after catching the amoeba while swimming in a warm lake in Iowa.
dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhattan, New York, warned: medicine net recent: ‘Climate change may play a role’ [in its spread].’
The last person to die from infection with the bacteria was 13-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer, of Port Charlotte, Florida.
The teenager is said to have become infected after swimming in a river near his home on July 1 during a family outing.
Five days later, he developed a fever and complained of hallucinations.
His parents rushed him to hospital, where doctors initially diagnosed him with meningitis, prolonging treatment.
A week later, they finally realized he was suffering from the amoeba.
He has survived more than two weeks beyond the 17 it takes for the infection to kill someone he infects.