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Fla. boy battling brain-eating amoeba

3:31 AM, Aug 14, 2013   |    comments
Zachary Reyna, taken from Facebook page created for sharing information on his condition. (Photo: Pray4Number4 - Zachary Reyna Facebook page)
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A Florida boy is battling a life-threatening, brain-eating amoeba, according to state officials and published reports.

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed a case of Naegleria fowleri in Glades County in south-central Florida. The amoeba causes a rare brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, that eats away at brain tissue and is usually fatal, according to the agency.

The boy, identified by the News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as Zachary Reyna, 12, contracted the ailment after playing in contaminated water on Aug. 3 in LaBelle, Fla., family, friends and officials told the news organization.

The boy was taken to Miami Children's Hospital over the weekend after suffering worsening flu-like symptoms for several days, according to the News-Press.

The hospital did not respond to queries about the boy's condition.

A Facebook page created for sharing information on Zachary's condition had a message from the boy's parents that was posted on Tuesday.

"Zac is still fighting," the parents posted. "Doctors are saying things have not changed. We are still strong on our end because we know God will step in when He is ready. Keep praying."

The parents added, "I know everything will turnout alright. This is God's plan and I just have to be patient. Thank you all for your support and please continue to pray for my family."

A Florida state official warned that the ailment is deadly.

"The effects of PAM on the individuals who contract the amoeba are tragic," Carina Blackmore, interim state epidemiologist, said in a statement.

Recently, however, a girl in Arkansas battling the same ailment has been showing promise.

Kali Hardig, also 12, also is battling an infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba, and has now been listed in fair condition at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, THV11 is reporting.

Infections can take place when contaminated water enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain. Peak season is July through September, according to the Department of Health.

Symptoms can include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY

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