ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida teen is one of only four people in the last 50 years known to have survived a brain-eating amoeba infection.
The parasite is almost always deadly. It kills 97 percent of patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1962 and 2015 there were 138 known cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis, the infection caused by the amoeba, and only three of those patients survived.
Now, 16-year-old Sebastian DeLeon is the fourth to survive the rare infection of the brain-eating amoeba.
DeLeon was rushed to the hospital on Aug. 7 after he got a headache so intense that he couldn’t tolerate people touching him, CBS Miami reports.
Health officials believe DeLeon was infected after swimming in contaminated water on private property in Broward County, Fla.
The single-celled organism is typically found in warm fresh water such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain.
As soon as DeLeon was admitted to the hospital, the teen tested positive for the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.
“The family when they came to me immediately within 24 hours, I had to tell them to just say their goodbyes,” Dr. Humberto Liriano said. “I had to tell them ‘tell him everything you want to tell your child because I don’t know from the time I put him to sleep to the time I take the tube out, will he wake up’.”
Fortunately, the teen did survive, with help from a drug produced in Orlando.
The drug was rushed to the hospital within 12 minutes after his positive diagnosis, CBS Miami reports.
“We watched and waited for Sebastian while he was in his coma and we decided, the team and I to re-warm him and wake him up. We woke him up and we decided to take the breathing tube out and within hours he spoke,” Dr. Liriano described emotionally. “Since then, he has done tremendously well. We are very optimistic, he’s walking, he’s speaking. I saw him this morning, he’s ready to go home, he’s not ready to leave yet, but he’s ready to go home. He went out for the first time to get some fresh air. We believe, optimistically, he will recover and get rehab.”
No word on when DeLeon will be released.