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UPDATE: Florida teen fighting for life after beach trip

Caleb Ziegelbauer started experiencing headaches and hallucinations about a week after swimming at a Port Charlotte beach, his family says.
Credit: Feng - stock.adobe.com
View of Peace RIver from Port Charlotte

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Update: A situation thought to involve a brain-eating amoeba has grown more uncertain following new testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent over an update to NBC2 reporting that test samples from Caleb Ziegelbauer showed no traces of Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba, despite earlier indications from doctors.

The outlet said a CDC representative released this statement:

“On 7/10/22, CDC provided consultation about an ill patient in Florida. CDC’s free-living ameba laboratory performed testing on two samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from this patient and Naegleria fowleri was not detected in either sample. For more information about this patient, please contact the Florida Department of Health."

10 Tampa Bay has reached out to local health officials and the CDC for more information on this matter.


Original story: A Florida teen is fighting for his life after he was hospitalized for a brain-eating amoeba.

On July 1, 13-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer took a trip with his family to a beach in Port Charlotte, according to a GoFundMe page. Peace River, which flows along the Port Charlotte coast, is known to have brackish water, a mix of salt and freshwater.

It wasn't until a week later that the teen started experiencing headaches and hallucinations, NBC2 reports. His parents took him to the emergency room when doctors determined a brain-eating amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri had entered his body through his nose and infected his brain, the news station adds.

Since his diagnosis, Caleb has had a tumultuous journey in the intensive care unit, requiring intubation and experiencing a seizure, according to his family's fundraising page.

“He’s just the kindest soul but he’s so strong. He’s so strong. Like the fighting on the outside, that’s what we’re doing,” Caleb’s aunt, Elizabeth Ziegelbaur, told NBC2. “He is fighting his little heart out on the inside.”

Naegleria fowleri infects people when water enters the body through the nose, usually while swimming in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can't get infected with the brain-eating amoeba by drinking contaminated water.

The CDC says infections are rare but often deadly. Of 154 people infected with the amoeba between 1962 to 2021 in the U.S., only four have survived, the agency reports.

Although Caleb's family says his brain swelling has gotten worse since being in the hospital, they remain hopeful that "he'll turn the corner soon and make his way back to us!"

You can read the latest updates from Caleb's family and donate to help them cover medical costs here.

An easy preventative step you can take to prevent water from going up your nose is to wear a nose clip and encourage your kids to do the same. Learn more about lowering your chances of brain-eating amoeba infection on the CDC website.


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