Florida Teen Hospitalized Due to Brain-Eating Amoeba After Beach Trip

GoFundMe

A family trip to the beach is supposed to be a fun activity, and it often is. Many families take trips to the beach in the summer. Many families who live near a beach might visit the beach any time of the year when the weather is nice.

Unfortunately, once in awhile a beach trip turns to disaster, and we’re not talking about shark bites or drowning. Sometimes there are completely invisible dangers.

A 13-year-old Florida teen named Caleb Ziegelbauer went to Port Charlotte Beach with his family on July 1, 2022. Everything seemed fine that day, but unfortunately, something happened at the beach that could become fatal.

In a GoFundMe for Caleb’s family, Caleb’s aunts, Elizabeth Ziegelbaur and Katie Chiet explained that five days after the beach trip Caleb “started to complain about a headache. The next day, the fever began. By Saturday, he was disoriented and his parents drove him to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in Ft. Myers.”

After being admitted to the hospital, Caleb was diagnosed with meningitis. It turned out that a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri had entered his body through his nose and had infected his brain. 

On July 10th, Caleb began treatment for the amoeba. His family wrote, “He required a brief period of sedation and intubation but has been breathing on his own for almost a full week now!” Yet, his family doesn’t know whether or not Caleb will recover. 

Since 1962, 154 people have been infected by Naegleria fowleri, and of those 154 people, only 5 have survived. His family remains hopeful that Caleb will be the sixth survivor.

Caleb’s aunt Elizabeth told NBC, “He’s just the kindest soul but he’s so strong. He’s so strong. Like the fighting on the outside, that’s what we’re doing. He is fighting his little heart out on the inside.”

Caleb’s aunt Katie added, “A lot of times people don’t get to the hospital quickly enough. We’re hoping that we did.” She continued, “It’s very lonely and isolating to walk this path because we don’t know where we are on any kind of timeline. It’s day 17 and Caleb is still breathing on his own. Are we in the clear? Are we on the path to healing? Are we waiting for something else to happen.”

Naegleria fowleri is found in warm freshwater such as lakes, hot springs, rivers and swimming pools that are not properly chlorinated. According to Mirna Chamorro, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson, in order to avoid Naegleria fowleri, keep your head above water or wear nose plugs.