MISSION, Kan. -- An extremely rare brain-eating amoeba has killed a nine-year-old girl from Johnson County.
Hally Yust, 9, from Spring Hill was an avid skier and died two days ago on Wednesday.
The amoeba is found in fresh water. A county disease investigator tells FOX 4 that Yust had several potential exposures in fresh water in Kansas, so the actual source of infection cannot be determined. She was taken to a hospital with meningitis-like symptoms and testing revealed the amoeba infection.
It's called Naegleria fowleri. It's in lakes, rivers and hot springs. Infection is extremely rare. There have been fewer than 200 cases in the U.S. in more than 50 years. There was also a death in a Wichita-area resident in 2011.
"The amoeba goes up through the nose and into the brain and once it's there, there's really nothing anybody can do. There's only been one case that actually lived through this. All the other cases have passed away," said Tiffany Geiger, the investigator with the Johnson County Health Department.
Geiger says even though the chances of getting the brain-eating amoeba are very low, you can lower the chances by wearing noseplugs when swimming, skiing or doing other fresh water activities. The risk does increase in the summer with warmer water temperatures.
Symptoms usually appear five days after infection. They include headache, fever, nausea, stiff neck and confusion.
The health department says infection cannot be spread from person to person, and you cannot get it from a swimming pool which is properly maintained.
On Friday, FOX 4's Abby Eden spoke with Yust's mother about her little girl.
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Her family released this statement:
"Our precious daughter, Hally, loved life and part of her great joy was spending time playing in the water. Her life was taken by a rare amoeba organism that grows in many different fresh water settings. We want you to know this tragic event is very, very rare, and this is not something to become fearful about.
We hope you will not live in fear of this rare infection that took our daughter's life. Our family is very active in water sports, and we will continue to be.
We pray that Hally's life is not in vain. We are so thankful that she is now with Jesus and her spirit lives on. We appreciate all the love and support from everyone."
A scholarship fund has been set up in Hally's honor, and those who wish to contribute are asked to send donations to:
The Hally "Bug" Yust K-State Women's Basketball Scholarship, Ahearn Fund, 1800 College Ave., Suite 138, Manhattan, Kansas 66502
Yust's family hopes the scholarship will provide educational opportunities for young women who love basketball as much as their daughter did.