ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Physicians and experts from across the country are meeting in Orlando for the annual conference to educate health care providers about Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba infection.
Presented by Florida Hospital for Children and The Jordan Smelski Foundation for Amoeba Awareness, in partnership with Florida Department of Health in Seminole and Orange counties, this year's conference features a Florida teenager who is one of the few people in the United States to survive the infection.
Sebastian DeLeon was vacationing with his family in Orlando when he became ill last year and was treated at Florida Hospital for Children. Members of the quick-thinking multidisciplinary team had attended the amoeba conference in the past, and were trained to treat and detect the brain infection.
"When I first met him, I knew the outcomes, and I had to warn the family," explained Dr. Umberto Liriano. "It goes into the brain and starts multiplying and eating [it] and your brain starts to swell."
The amoeba is found in warm fresh water, usually in the summer months.
"It's very important that everyone is aware, especially in central Florida, especially in Florida," Dr. Liriano said, "but all southern states where people go to lakes and people go to rivers."
DeLeon not only survived, but he also has fully recovered. Now, the 18-year-old is applying for college.
"I'm going to write a pretty 'bomb' essay, because of this, and we'll go from there," DeLeon said.