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Arkansas Girl Kali Hardig Battling Rare, Deadly Brain-Eating Parasite

July 30, 2013 by Brett Wilkins in Health & Medicine with 0 Comments

Kali HardigA 12-year-old girl is fighting for her life after contracting a rare and deadly brain-eating parasite at an Arkansas water park.

Kali Hardig is believed to have contracted a rare form of parasitic meningitis while swimming at the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock last week. WLS reports Hardig fell violently ill days after visiting the park.

“I couldn’t get her fever down,” mother Traci Hardig told the Christian Post. “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.”

Traci’s mother rushed her to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare and deadly brain-eating amoeba that lives in warm bodies of fresh water. The parasite enters the body by being breathed in through the nose.

“The amoeba then finds itself way back in our noses and then can work its way into our central nervous system, around our brains, and once it’s there it just causes destruction,” Dr. William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine told CNN.

“This infection is one of the most severe infections that we know of,” Dr. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health told WMCTV. “Ninety-nine percent of people who get it die.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, only two people who have contracted the deadly parasite are known to have survived in the United States.

The chances of contracting the rare parasite are one in 32 million. Only 150 cases have ever been reported in the United States, with five of those occurring in Arkansas.

KTHV reports Hardig is being treated at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, where she is reportedly in an induced coma.

On a ‘Prayers for Kali’ Facebook page, the girl’s family wrote that she “had a good day today.”

“Kali opened her eyes and looked at her momma this morning,” the page says. “Please keep Kali in your prayers today.”

WLS reports that Hardig is the second child to fall ill after swimming in the same lake. Three years ago, a 7-year-old boy died after swimming there. Willow Springs Water Park has been closed following news of Hardig’s illness.

“It’s hard for us to even think about the possibility of a child getting sick out here,” park owner David Ratliff told CNN.

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