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The Florida student, 22, said the disease left him brain damaged and underweight

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A Florida student was unable to walk up stairs and write after a deadly brain-eating amoeba he caught “cannonballing” into a stagnant pond left him underweight and brain damaged.

Sebastian Deleon, now 22, from Weston, Florida, revealed his experience after catching a brain-eating amoeba - scientifically named Naegleria fowleri.  He said he initially had a severe headache before becoming sensitive to the sun and struggling to stand up.  He is one of four lucky survivors of the infection out of 154 known cases

Sebastian Deleon, now 22, from Weston, Florida, revealed his experience after catching a brain-eating amoeba – scientifically named Naegleria fowleri. He said he initially had a severe headache before becoming sensitive to the sun and struggling to stand up. He is one of four lucky survivors of the infection out of 154 known cases

Sebastian Deleon, now 22, of Weston, is one of four lucky survivors of an amoeba infection — called Naegleria fowleri — out of 154 reported cases in the United States. He became infected six years ago at the age of 16.

In the early stages, he was knocked down by a severe headache that felt like a smooth rock was “pressing” on his head. It quickly left him unable to stand up and needing sunglasses “even when the sun wasn’t shining”, prompting his parents to rush him to the hospital.

Once the doctors put him on seven antibiotics and he fell into a coma. When he came back after about a week, he needed about three weeks of rehab to regain a lot of strength.

Experts are urging Americans to be aware of the amoeba, which is lurking in waterways across the country, and say global warming — heating up stagnant pools further north in the country — is making it a risk in other areas.

Deleon imagined learning to walk stairs again at the rehab center

Deleon is learning to walk up and down stairs

After being in a coma for about a week, Deleon was taken to a rehabilitation center to help him regain his strength. He is pictured here learning to walk up and down stairs

He is pictured above strengthening his legs at Joe Dimaggio's Children's Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood, Florida.

He is pictured above strengthening his legs at Joe Dimaggio’s Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood, Florida.

Deleon was rushed to the hospital by his parents in 2016 (pictured above) after he started suffering from severe headaches.

Deleon was rushed to the hospital by his parents in 2016 (pictured above) after he started suffering from severe headaches.

When Deleon revealed his battle with the amoeba in 2016, he told ClickOrlando, “It was kind of hard the first few years.

“I remember the part when I was in rehab the most. It was hard, I had to learn to walk again, to write, to do all the basic things again.”

What is primary amebic meningoencephalitis?

Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is a rare and usually fatal brain infection.

It is triggered by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which enters the body when ingested through the nose.

Once the infection is established, it spreads through the nerves to the brain where it destroys the tissue.

Patients initially experience headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

But in the later stages, they may also face hallucinations and seizures.

About 97 percent of people who contract amoeba die from the disease.

Source: CDC

The symptoms appeared days after he became infected while visiting theme parks in nearby Orlando with his parents.

At first he had a severe headache. But he said, “The headache was different.” It felt more like – the description I kept repeating in the hospital was that I had a smooth rock on my head and someone was pushing it down.’

Then it got so bad that, ‘I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move and stuff, so my parents were like, “Okay, there’s something wrong with this kid. We’ve got to take him somewhere.” .

“We got into the car. It felt like I was on one of those roller coasters that goes round and round and I had to wear sunglasses and the sun wasn’t even shining.’

When asked where he caught it, Deleon said it was probably from a stagnant lake he jumped into “about two or three times.”

The amoeba is present in small concentrations in most watercourses, but when these become stagnant and warm, they multiply, posing a risk.

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It infects people when water goes up their nose, but there are no known cases of person-to-person transmission.

Doctors said when Deleon arrived at the hospital in late August, he was immediately put on seven different antibiotics. Among them was impavido, which some experts believe may help the sick better than others.

He was then placed in a coma for about a week, and scans revealed that the amoeba had damaged his brain, while he also lost about 20 pounds.

But when his condition began to improve, he was reawakened and released to the Joe Dimaggio Children’s Rehabilitation Center to regain his strength.

During this time, the nurses helped him gain the strength to walk up and down the stairs and improve his muscles so he could lift more than 5 pounds.

He is much better now and even said at a medical meeting in 2017 that he was more worried about school work than the disease.

The amoeba that triggered his disease is fatal in about 97 percent of cases, even in those where treatment is given.

Deleon (pictured in 2016) caught the disease when he was just 16 years old.  He is one of only four people in America known to have survived

Deleon (pictured in 2016) caught the disease when he was just 16 years old. He is one of only four people in America known to have survived

In 2017, he attended a medical conference, pictured telling doctors he was now more worried about his school work than an amoeba infection.

In 2017, he attended a medical conference, pictured telling doctors he was now more worried about his school work than an amoeba infection.

Deleon is pictured above (second from left) with family members as he is discharged from the hospital

Deleon is pictured above (second from left) with family members as he is discharged from the hospital

It is present in soils and fresh water around the world in low concentrations, but usually only becomes a threat when the water is warmed above 115F (46C) and multiplies to much larger numbers. this happens in the summer months.

People who catch the disease initially suffer from symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck.

But in the later stages, they can progress to seizures, hallucinations and altered mental status.

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It is almost exclusively caught while swimming in hot stagnant water — when the water enters the swimmers’ nose — where it infects the olfactory nerve and travels a short distance to the brain. So far, there are no known cases of people passing it on to each other.

Caleb Ziegelbauer (pictured), 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida, is the latest American to be hospitalized after suffering an infection caused by a brain amoeba.

Caleb Ziegelbauer (pictured), 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida, is the latest American to be hospitalized after suffering an infection caused by a brain amoeba.

Dr Anjan Debnath, an expert on parasitic diseases at the University of California, San Diego, told DailyMail.com last week that the disease is “quite fast” and “literally eats away at brain tissue”.

He warned that because of how rare it is, doctors often misdiagnose it as another illness such as meningitis – wasting precious time that could be used to save the patient.

There are also concerns that the amoeba is moving northward due to global warming. Currently, it is commonly found only in the southern United States.

But this year, a man died after catching an amoeba while swimming in a warm lake in Iowa.

Dr Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhattan, New York, recently warned Medicinenet: “Climate change may play a role. [in its spread].’

The latest American to be hospitalized with an amoeba infection is 13-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer of Port Charlotte, Florida.

The teenager is believed to have become infected after swimming in a river near his home on July 1 during a family outing.

Five days later he had a fever and complained of hallucinations.

His parents rushed him to the hospital, where doctors initially diagnosed him with meningitis, delaying the time he needed for treatment.

A week later they finally realized they were suffering from amoeba.

He survived more than two weeks past the 17 it usually takes for an infection to kill someone it infects.

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