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Brain-eating parasite case: Florida boy’s organs donated

(CNN) — The family of Zachary Reyna, the 12-year-old Florida boy stricken with a brain-eating parasite, has donated Zachary’s organs, according to a Facebook page that’s been providing detailed updates from the Reyna family.

“Zac donated all his organs to others that were waiting on a miracle,” the late Monday night post said. “Through donating his organs, Zac is living on. His heart will be pumping for someone, his lungs will be taking breaths for someone and all his other organs will change the lives of many.”

Funeral arrangements for Zachary have not yet been made, the post said.

A previous post indicated that Zachary had passed away on Saturday but was being kept on a ventilator so the boy’s organs could be donated, and that family and friends could visit him one last time at Miami Children’s Hospital.

Doctors had given Zachary an experimental drug to treat a rare amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri. This same drug was used to treat 12-year-old Kali Hardig recently in Arkansas, after which she became only the third person in the last 50 years known to survive the deadly parasite.

Zachary’s family told CNN affiliate WBBH that they believe the boy — who they described as an active seventh-grader — was infected while kneeboarding with friends in a water-filled ditch by his house on August 3.

After he was hospitalized, the boy underwent brain surgery, and doctors diagnosed him with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, according to WBBH.

On August 21, the family noted on the Facebook page that antibiotics had defeated Zachary’s infection; tests showed no activity from the amoeba in his body. But, the post said, extensive damage had already been done to the 12-year-old’s brain.

After news emerged regarding Zachary’s diagnosis, the Florida Department of Health issued a warning to swimmers that high water temperatures and low water levels provide the perfect breeding ground for this rare amoeba.

Between 2001 and 2010, there were only 32 reported cases of people getting Naegleria fowleri in the United States, according to the CDC. Most of the cases have been in the Southeast.

Naegleria fowleri is found in hot springs and warm freshwater, most often in the southeastern United States. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain. There is no danger of infection from drinking contaminated water, the CDC said.

“This infection is one of the most severe infections that we know of,” Dr. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health told CNN affiliate WMC about Kali’s case. “Ninety-nine percent of people who get it die.”

The first symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis appear one to seven days after infection, including headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations,” the agency website says. “After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within one to 12 days.”