Junior Olympian Dies After Contracting Brain-Eating Amoeba While Swimming in Lake, Family Says

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Michael Riley Jr. is seen in a photo posted on a GoFundMe fundraising page.

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A 14-year-old boy from Houston who was diagnosed with a rare brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a lake earlier this month has died, his family said Saturday night.

Michael Riley Jr. passed away at Texas Children’s Hospital after battling the infection for nearly two weeks, according to local television station KTRK.

“It is with a heavy heart that we tell you, Michael John Riley Jr. lost his battle on this earth but won a victory for his place in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ,” his family wrote in a post on a Facebook page devoted to providing spiritual support for the boy, and to raise awareness about the disease.

“Michael fought a courageous fight over the past week, allowing him to move on to be with the Lord for future heavenly tasks, a beautiful set of wings, and a pair of gold running shoes,” the post read. 

The teen was described by his family as an honor student who was a member of the National Honor Society.  He was also a talented athlete who competed three times in the Junior Olympics.

Funeral service arrangements were pending, his family said on Facebook.

brain-eating-amoeba
Naegleria fowleri enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain. (credit: CDC)

According to a GoFundMe set up for the teen, Michael contracted a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri while swimming at a lake in Sam Houston State Park with teammates from his new high school track team on Aug. 13.

Less than a week later, on Aug. 19, the teenager woke up with a headache and slight fever. His mother took him to a local clinic, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.

Two days later, Michael “took a turn for the worse,” according to the GoFundMe page. His severe symptoms, which included “an unbearable” headache, a sore neck and being “visibly” disoriented, prompted his parents to take the boy to a hospital.

He was diagnosed with Naegleria fowleri, which can cause an infection called Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, according to the fundraising page.

The infection is “rare,” “devastating,” and almost always fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1962 and 2014, just three infected individuals out of 133 known cases have survived, CDC reported.

A 4-year-old Houston boy who was treated for the same infection at Texas Children’s Hospital also died from it earlier this month, according to KTRK.

David Charar had apparently contracted the brain-eating amoeba from a river near Livingston and Huntsville.

According to CDC, the ameoba is usually found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It enters a person’s body through the nose then travels to the brain, causing the potentially fatal infection.

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