A 12-year-old girl is fighting for her life in critical condition after contracting a rare and extremely deadly brain-eating amoeba while swimming at an Arkansas water park.
Kali Hardig is the second person to have come down with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in three years after swimming in the sandy-bottom lake at Willow Springs Water Park near Little Rock, Arkansas.
Only two people in the world are known to have survived the extremely rare Naegleria infection since the Centers for Disease Control began tracking it in 1962.
Kali’s family is praying for her to be the third survivor.
Kali’s mother Traci has had t-shirts made for Kali’s family and friends with a large, bold number ‘3’ beneath the word’s ‘Kali’s Krew.’
‘This is Kali’s Krew. Number three stands for the third person who will survive this amoeba disease. My daughter Kali,’ she told KLRT-TV.
‘We are just going to take baby steps, but other than that, she’s doing remarkable. She’s a little miracle,’
The condition is caused when the Naegleria parasite enters a patient’s brain, usually after accidentally inhaling stagnant, warm water up the nose while swimming.
Arkansas Department of Health spokesman Ed Barham told MailOnline the water must to be forcefully, almost violently, pushed up the nose – as it can be after diving into the water, being dunked or using a water slide.
Naegleria are be found in nearly every freshwater body of water – even lakes. But, they only become active when water heats up.
The cruel irony of the parasite is that the risk is highest when the temperature is hottest – and swimmers are looking for a reprieve from the heat.
Closed: The owners of Willow Springs Water Park near Little Rock, Arkansas, have shut down the lake after learning of two reported cases of the deadly disease in three years.
The CDC says there have been 128 cases of the disease in the U.S. in the last five decades – making the disease extremely rare, when compared to the number of lakes and muddy swimming holes Americans dip into for refuge from the summer heat each year.
The amoebas are most active when the water temperature reaches about 85 degrees, Barham said.
However, this is the second time the parasite has infected a swimmer at Willow Springs Water Park.
In August 2010, 7-year-old Davian Briggs died after contracting the disease after he had been swimming at the lake.
Because two cases have been seen from the same body was water, state health officials asked the park owners to close their swimming hole. They obliged.
‘Though the odds of contracting Naegleria are extremely low, they are just not good enough to allow our friends or family to swim,’ owners David and Lou Ann Ratliff said in a statement.
The park, which attracts up to 250 swimmers a day – and thousands over the course of a summer – is now looking into installing a hard pool bottom at the swimming hole and filling it with chlorinated water supplied by Little Rock.
Kali’s mother Traci Harding said she had no idea about the risks of swimming in warm lakes and had never heard of the disease.
‘You’re a mom, you’re a dad. You can still take your child swimming. We don’t want to scare people. We just want you to know there are little things you can do to help them out. So they can go and still be a kid,’ she said.
She encourages parents to make their children wear nose plugs while swimming – to minimize the risk of inhaling water through the nose and contracting the Naegleria parasite.
Still, Barham, of the health department, says that swimmers really shouldn’t be too concerned about the
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