Water park closes after girl gets brain-eating parasite - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Water park closes after girl gets brain-eating parasite

Kali Hardig, 12, came down with parasitic meningitis, a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba. Kali Hardig, 12, came down with parasitic meningitis, a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba.

(WMC-TV) - The Arkansas water park where a young girl got a brain-eating parasite has shut down.

Kali Hardig, 12, came down with parasitic meningitis, a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba. She likely picked up at the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock.

The infection has struck only 31 other people in the past 10 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, all of those cases were fatal.

The amoeba loves warm water, like lakes, rivers, and hot springs.

"The amoeba then finds its 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," said Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Kali's mother took her to the hospital when she noticed alarming symptoms: exhaustion and high fever.

Doctors at Arkansas Children's Hospital put Kali in a coma to stabilize her.

The Willow Springs Water Park has closed. Anyone who swam at the park more than eight days ago and did not experience any symptoms are not at risk.

"It's hard for us to even think about the possibility of a child getting sick out here," said water park owner David Ratliff.

To avoid the amoeba, keep your head out of the water while swimming in warm freshwater lakes and similar bodies of water. Use nose clips or hold your nose shut and avoid stirring up dirt or sand at the bottom of shallow, freshwater areas.

Kali's family is asking for prayers on their Facebook page as they write ..."She still has a long fight ahead."

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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