BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A healthy teenager is dead within days and officials say it’s all because of a rare brain-eating amoeba she likely contracted swimming in Cecil County creeks.
While very rare, that amoeba can travel through the nose into a person’s brain, nearly always causing death.
Kerry Stoutenburgh, 19, was visiting family in Cecil County where she went swimming in multiple freshwater creeks.
Doctors say after the teen returned home, she starting having headaches. Within days a brain-eating amoeba had killed her.
Cecil County health officials say the amoebas live in fresh warm water, but cases like this are rare.
If people get contaminated water up their nose, in rare circumstances it can lead to a meningitis encephylitis– one of several brain-eating amoeba cases reported nationwide this year.
Last month in South Carolina 11-year-old Hannah Collins died after being exposed while swimming in a river. An Ohio teen Lauren Sykes died after falling in the water on a North Carolina rafting trip.
In South Florida, doctors moved fast to save the life of a 16-year old boy and doctors say it’s a miracle.
“Now he’s currently walking, talking. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle,” Dr. Humberto Liriano of the Florida Hospital for Children.
“We are so thankful that god has given us this miracle,” said Brunilda Gonzalez, mother of the 16-year-old boy.
Out of 138 cases reported in more than 50 years only three people survived.
The family of Kerry Stoutenberg is coping with this tragedy saying, “Kerry was a beautiful soul both inside and out. She was taken from this world way too soon, but her memories will stay with us forever.”
Cecil County officials say the risk of contracting the infection is very low, but ever-present in warm fresh water. Officials say if you jump in any river, lake or stream, hold your nose, or wear nose clips as a precaution.