Teenager dies from deadly brain-eating bug after swimming in a stream

Kerry Stoutenburgh, 19 died from the rare brain parasite while on family vacation

A teenager died from a deadly brain-eating amoeba after jumping into a stream while on a family holiday.

Pretty Kerry Stoutenburgh tragically passed away from the rare brain parasite after swimming in Octoraro Creek and North East Creek in Maryland during her summer vacation.

Dr Carol Smith said the state Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center confirmed the amoeba was present in Miss Stoutenburgh’s system.

‘It is a catastrophic type of infection,’ Smith told the Daily Freeman.

‘It really progresses to fatality quite quickly.’

The amoeba can be contracted through the nose when swimming in freshwater lakes or rivers.

It then travels to the brain and the infection is usually fatal, causing death within five days after symptoms first appear.

Her father, Donald, said the amoeba probably entered his daughter’s system on August 20 when she jumped off a bridge into a warm body of water in Cecil County, Maryland.

The 19-year-old from New York had been on holiday with her older sister Katie, mother Wendy and her boyfriend, Cody Phillips.

She was first hospitalized a week later with symptoms including vomiting and persistent headaches.

She was treated and sent home but her condition deteriorated and she returned to hospital.

Doctors initially thought she had meningitis but further tests proved that to be incorrect.

The organism causes the disease ‘primary amebic meningoencephalitis,’ a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It added people cannot be infected from swallowing the contaminated water and it can only enter the body through the nose.

Miss Stoutenburgh died on August 31.

She is thought to be the first person in either New York or Maryland to die from the extremely rare parasite.

The mortality rate from primary amebic meningoencephalitis is more than 97 per cent, according to the CDC.

The agency said only three out of 138 known infected individuals in the US from 1962 to 2015 have survived.

Paying tribute to Kerry, her family wrote on her Go Fund Me page: ‘Kerry was a beautiful soul both inside and out. She was taken from this world way too soon, but her memories will stay with us forever.’

Her boyfriend wrote on Instagram: ‘My heart is aching so much. Kerry, I love you so much I can’t even comprehend. Rest easy you beautiful, funny, charming young lady.’

Nancy Brown
Associate Editor