— Ryan Kath (@ryankath) July 11, 2014
A 9-year-old Kansas girl who loved water sports died from a rare infection from a brain-eating amoeba found in freshwater, Kansas health officials confirmed over the weekend.
Hally Yust of Spring Hill, Kan., died last week, according to her obituary, after allegedly getting an infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in warm freshwater.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the ameba [an alternative spelling of amoeba] enters the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. The Naegleria fowleri ameba then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue.
State health officials haven’t determined where Hally contracted the infection. She apparently had been swimming in several area lakes. But this is only the second known case of PAM caused by Naegleria fowleri in Kansas, officials said. The first case was reported in 2011. In the United States, there were 132 PAM infections between 1962 and 2013 with more than half occurring in Texas and Florida, the CDC reported.
“You are more likely to die from drowning than you are from ever dying from this organism, it’s like a one in a billion, this girl’s one in a billion,” Hally’s father, Shon Yust, told Fox4KC.
The family told reporters they don’t want people to be afraid to enjoy the water. Instead, they want their daughter’s memory to live on. They released the following statement to local media:
Our precious daughter Hally loved life and part of her great joy in life was spending time playing in the water.
Her life was taken by a rare amoeba organism that grows in many different fresh water settings. We want you to know this tragic event is very, very rare, and this is not something to become fearful about.
We hope you will not live in fear of this rare infection that took our daughter’s life. Our family is very active in water sports, and we will continue to be.
We pray that Hally’s life is not in vain. We are so thankful that she is now with Jesus and her spirit lives on.
We appreciate all the love and support from everyone.
We also want you to know that we have set up a scholarship fund in Hally’s honor. If you wish to donate, please send your gifts to the Hally “Bug” Yust K-State Women’s Basketball Scholarship, Ahearn Fund, 1800 College Ave., Suite 138, Manhattan, KS 66502. We hope that this will provide educational opportunities for young women who loved basketball as much as Hally did.
If you really want to report the right story, dig into who Hally was and her love for Jesus, not what took her life.
Thank you and God bless.
According to state health officials, symptoms typically appear within five days after infection and include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance and bodily control, seizures and hallucinations. This infection cannot be spread from person to person or contracted from a properly maintained swimming pool.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported that even though the risk of infection is extremely low, the following precautions might decrease the possibility:
- Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater.
- Avoid putting your head under the water in hot springs and other untreated thermal waters.
- Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature.
- Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.