‘Remarkable young soul’ Ga. teen identified as victim who died from rare brain-eating amoeba

ATLANTA — A “remarkable young soul” is how a 17-year-old girl from Georgia is being remembered after she died from a brain-eating amoeba.

Megan Ebenroth’s parents told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she went swimming at a lake near where she lives in McDuffie County on July 11, and she caught the extremely rare brain infection, Naegleria fowleri.

“I’m still in shock,” her mother, Christina Ebenroth, told the AJC on Monday. “But I can’t keep silent about her. She was extraordinary.”

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Ebenroth’s mother told the AJC that Megan woke up with a bad headache about four days after going swimming and took her to urgent care where she was treated for a migraine.

When her head continued to hurt badly, she then took Megan to a nearby emergency room. Ebenroth was given IV fluids and had a series of blood tests. At one point, doctors had to drill a hole in her skull to help relieve her brain swelling.


Christina Ebenroth told the newspaper that it wasn’t until Friday, July 21 that someone brought up the possibility that she could have caught the brain-eating amoeba. The next day Megan passed away.

The mother said what happened to her daughter was a freak accident.

“They were so caring; I had the best doctors and nurses. I don’t blame anyone,” Christina Ebenroth told the AJC. “This was an act of God. Right now, I’ve got to figure out why.”

Ebenroth was going into her senior year. According to her mother, Megan had her heart set on going to the University of Georgia, which was something she had wanted since the 6th grade.

The teen had a passion for the arts, especially drama, and was a straight “A” student, according to her obituary.

“She was my world,” the mother said.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that lives in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and hot springs. People can become infected when water containing the amoeba goes up a person’s nose. It can’t infect people who swallow water and it doesn’t spread from person to person.

It’s only the sixth case of a Naegleria fowleri infection in Georgia since 1962. Only three people in the U.S. get infected every year, but almost all infections are fatal.