12-Year-Old Girl Struggling To Survive After Contracting Brain-Eating Parasite


A 12-year-old girl is struggling to survive after being diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, caused by a brain-eating amoeba.

ABC News reported that the girl, Kali Hardig, likely contracted the rare form of parasitic meningitis from swimming at the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Ark.; she was admitted to the hospital just a day after swimming in the water park, according to The Christian Post.

“I couldn’t get her fever down. She started vomiting. She’d say her head hurt really bad. She cried, and she would just look at me and her eyes would just kind of roll,” Hardig’s mother, Traci, told The Christian Post.

Now, Hardig is receiving care at the Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, according to KTVH. The Christian Post reported that she was put in a medically induced coma.

The Arkansas Department of Health released a statement regarding Hardig’s case, explaining that the amoeba that caused her particular kind of meningitis, called Naegleria fowleri, can be found in warm streams, rivers and lakes, as well as soil. Naegleria fowleri isn’t transmitted between humans; it’s usually contracted by entering in through the nose of humans while they are in the water.

Fortunately, “the risk of infection from Naegleria in Arkansas is exceedingly low,” Dirk Haselow, M.D., the state epidemiologist at the state department of health, said in a statement. Signs of infection begin anywhere from one to seven days after a person has contracted it, and include headache, nausea and vomiting, or fever. Symptoms may progress on to seizures, hallucinations, balance problems and stiff neck.

The condition is usually fatal, with only two people known to have survived it in North America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Willow Springs Water Park is now closed; it was linked with another case of parasitic amebic meningoencephalitis in 2010.

The management at Willow Springs Water Park released a statement to the Arkansas Department of Health about the case:

We, David and Lou Ann Ratliff, as general management of Willow Springs Water Park, have received new information regarding Naegleria fowleri, and have elected to close the park as of July 25 at the request of the Arkansas Department of Health. Though the odds of contracting Naegleria are extremely low, they are just not good enough to allow our friends or family to swim.For the thousands of people who love Willow Springs, we will be taking this time to determine the feasibility of installing a solid bottom to the lake. We will not ever reopen as a sand bottom lake … We covet your prayers and our Willow Springs family will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.


ABC News notes that there are several precautions people can take if they are swimming outdoors in the summer. These include not swimming in freshwater areas when the water temperature is very warm and the water level is low; trying to keep your head above the water (or your nose plugged); and not kicking up sediment in freshwater swimming areas.