A brain-eating amoeba killed a 19-year-old Brooklyn College student, according to media reports.
Kerry Stoutenburgh, who lived in Brighton Beach with her boyfriend, died on Aug. 31 from a degenerative brain infection contracted while swimming in a Maryland creek while on a family vacation, Daily Freeman reported. Naegleria fowleri, a rare brain-eating amoeba, entered the varsity swimmer's body via her sinuses and eventually caused an infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis which leads to the destruction of brain tissue, her father said.
“It’s very rare,” her father Donald Stoutenburgh said, the Freeman reported. “Her fate was sealed” as soon as she hit the water. Donald Stoutenburgh said he was told his daughter’s case is the only reported instance in Maryland and New York.
According to media reports, Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith has not confirmed the cause of death, but called Naegleria fowleri “a catastrophic type of infection” that “really progresses to fatality quite quickly.”
The infection is not communicable and is “probably something that she came in contact with down when she was vacationing in Maryland,” Smith added.
Naegleria fowleri is mostly found in bodies of warm freshwater, like rivers, lakes and hot springs, according to the CDC. Humans can only be infected when the amoeba infiltrates sinuses and reaches the brain; humans cannot be infected by swallowing the water, the CDC said in its report.
The CDC says only three people out of 138 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2015 have survived. A 16-year-old in Florida survived the brain infection earlier in August, CNN reported, making him the fourth survivor.
There are experimental treatments for the infection, but Smith said there are no guarantees they would have worked and they probably would not have reached Stoutenburgh in time.