Brain-Eating Amoeba In Maryland Kills Teenage Girl: ‘She Started To Lose Her Mind,’ Says Teen’s Boyfriend
A teenage girl died after being exposed to a brain-eating amoeba while swimming in freshwater creeks in Cecil County, Maryland. Nineteen-year-old Kerry Stoutenburgh passed away days after her Naegleria fowleri infection.
Stoutenburgh swam in several freshwater creeks while she was visiting family in Cecil County in August. The teen was with her boyfriend, Luke Carquillat, and her family when she jumped for around eight times from a bridge into the waters of the Conowingo creek, which contains the brain-eating amoeba, People reports.
Carquillat said Stoutenburgh was "usually good at keeping her nose closed and blowing out," but she complained that the water got up her nose after one of her jumps. The teen experienced headaches and sensitivity to light days after returning to New York.
The brain-eating amoeba is usually found in freshwater bodies such as lakes, streams, and rivers, Parent Herald previously noted. Swallowing the organism won't give you an infection, but it becomes life-threatening when water goes up a person's nose with enough force to allow the brain-eating amoeba to travel to the brain.
Upon entering the brain, Naegleria fowleri causes an infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The disease is characterized by headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, stiff neck, altered mental status, and coma. PAM is generally fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stoutenburgh's condition days after she went swimming mirrored the symptoms listed by the CDC. According to Carquillat, his girlfriend began to "lose her mind" and was crying at times and then "going back to normal," People further relates.
Stoutenburgh was also "speaking incoherently," "screaming," and "crawling on the floor." Carquillat recalled how she got so terrified and clueless as she was attacked by headaches and wooziness. As Stoutenburgh's condition worsened, Carquillat knew that his "soul mate" and "love of [his] life" will be gone, though that didn't stop him from staying with her until the "very, very end."
Stoutenburgh was declared brain dead by doctors on Aug. 30, according to further report by People. A Naegleria fowleri diagnosis was confirmed the next day, prompting doctors to take the teen off from life support. Stoutenburgh's family held a wake at a church in Kingston, New York a week after she died.
Several brain-eating amoeba infections were reported in the U.S. recently. In South Carolina, an 11-year-old girl named Hannah Collins died after a Naegleria fowleri exposure. An Ohio teen, Lauren Sykes, also met a similar fate after a rafting trip in North Carolina's National Whitewater Center in June.
Only 138 cases of Naegleria fowleri infection were reported in the past 50 years, as per CBS News. Out of those, only three people survived.