A 10-year-old girl in Texas is fighting for her life after contracting a brain-eating amoeba and rare illness.
Lily Avant has been in the hospital for several days and is currently in a medically-induced coma while doctors treat swelling in her brain.
Avant first contracted Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as brain-eating amoeba. The amoeba is typically found in warm fresh water and soil and Avant's family believes she contracted it while swimming in a river over Labor Day weekend. On Sunday, Sept. 8, she contracted a fever, and Wendy Scott, Avant's first cousin once removed, told KXAS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Dallas, that she was seen by a doctor that night.
"They got it checked out," she said. "There were several viruses going around the school. It was assumed it's a virus because the symptoms are exactly the same, so she was sent home."
Scott said that over the course of a few days, Avant's condition deteriorated.
"She was brought into the emergency room on Tuesday when she woke up unresponsive," Scott explained. "She was eyes open, she was there, but she wasn't speaking. Nothing."
The amoeba, which enters the body through the nose and cannot be swallowed, is known to cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the CDC. While the amoeba itself is common, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, PAM is rare and almost always fatal. There have only been five documented cases of survival.
"We average less than one per year in Texas. However, it is extremely serious and almost always fatal. Since it's so rare, we don't know why a few people get sick while millions who swim in natural bodies of water don't," an agency spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services explained. "Because the organism is common in lakes and rivers, we don't recommend people specifically avoid bodies of water where people have contracted the illness."
Scott added that the family is doing everything they can to spread awareness about the amoeba and the potential infection.