A 10-year-old girl in Texas who contracted a brain-eating amoeba has died, her aunt wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.
Lily Avant had been in the hospital for several days in a medically induced coma while doctors treated swelling in her brain after she contracted Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as brain-eating amoeba.
Loni Yadon, Avant's aunt, wrote Monday that Avant had "gone to be with Jesus."
"She fought the good fight and built an ARMY of prayer warriors around the world doing it,'' Yadon wrote.
Yadon also remembered her niece in a statement to TODAY.
"At this time, our baby is completely healed and in the arms of Jesus,'' she said. "We want everyone to know we appreciate their prayers and love and support. Our Lily Mae changed lives and brought unity to a divided nation. It's just like her! She loved everyone, and people felt it even through a TV or Facebook. She taught us so much more than we ever taught her."
The amoeba that caused her illness is typically found in warm freshwater and soil, and Avant's family believes she contracted it while swimming in a river over Labor Day weekend. On Sept. 8, she contracted a fever, and Wendy Scott, Avant's first cousin once removed, told KXAS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Dallas, that she was seen by a doctor that night.
"They got it checked out," she said. "There were several viruses going around the school. It was assumed it's a virus because the symptoms are exactly the same, so she was sent home."
Scott said that over the course of a few days, Avant's condition deteriorated.
"She was brought into the emergency room on Tuesday when she woke up unresponsive," Scott explained. "She was eyes open, she was there, but she wasn't speaking. Nothing."
The amoeba, which enters the body through the nose and cannot be swallowed, is known to cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to the CDC. While the amoeba itself is common, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, PAM is rare and almost always fatal. There have only been five documented cases of survival.
"Since (PAM is) so rare, we don't know why a few people get sick while millions who swim in natural bodies of water don't," an agency spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services explained. "Because the organism is common in lakes and rivers, we don't recommend people specifically avoid bodies of water where people have contracted the illness."
Scott had added that the family is doing everything they can to spread awareness about the amoeba and potential infection.
"We thought if the water is flowing, it's safe, but that's clearly not the case," Scott explained to TODAY.
According to the CDC, those who are infected die one to 18 days after symptoms begin, with the median being five days.