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Charlotte County teen transferred to rehab facility in Chicago as diagnosis remains inconclusive

Posted at 12:49 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 05:58:42-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A 13-year-old boy, whose doctors believe potentially contracted a deadly amoeba in Charlotte County, is being transferred to Chicago for further treatment.

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According to Lee Health, Zieglebauer went to Golisano Children’s Hospital on July 9 with a severe headache, hallucinations, and a high fever. Doctors collected two samples from the boy on July 10, testing him for the freshwater amoeba and to confirm the disease, primary anemic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The amoeba is called Nagleria fowleri.

"After ruling out the much more common condition of bacterial meningitis, which has very similar symptoms to primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), and learning that he had been swimming in brackish water on July 1, doctors tested and began treating Caleb for PAM," Lee Health said in a previous statement.

The CDC confirmed that the test for the amoeba came back negative and the test for the disease was inconclusive.

"Even though there was not a confirmed result for PAM to report to the Department of Health, Caleb’s doctors believe this to be the cause of his illness and are treating him accordingly," Lee Health stated.

The CDC says the test is done through a PCR and the chance of a false negative is very low.

The Charlotte County Department of Health said on July 23 that there are no confirmed cases in the county. That same day, the DOH had a last-minute presentation at a Board of Commissioners meeting, educating people about the amoeba.

Nagleria fowleri is extremely rare and you can only be infected through the nose. It is naturally occurring in fresh and brackish water, which is why the CDC says it doesn’t test water for it.

The fatality rate is 97 percent and only four people out of 154 cases since 1962 have survived.