LOS ANGELES -- A mother in Southern California is grieving the loss of her 20-year-old daughter who died suddenly after contracting a deadly brain-eating amoeba.
Koral Reef Pier died in October from a rare, but often fatal, brain-eating amoeba called balamuthia mandrillaris.
“It just eats your brain. It’s like a sci-fi movie, really,” her mother, Sybil Meister, told KTLA. “It eats your brain until there’s nothing left.”
The amoeba that can enter the body through open wounds or the nose can be found in hot springs, water parks, under-chlorinated pools, rivers and lakes.
Pier's family said she likely contracted the amoeba during a family trip to Lake Havasu, Ariz., in May 2013.
However, she didn't start showing symptoms of balamuthia until several months after the trip.
Pier's symptoms included headaches, a stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, her mother said. The symptoms progressed and became much more severe over the course of year.
Eventually she became partially paralyzed in her face and lost her vision.
Initially doctors thought Pier was suffering from migraines, but after a biopsy doctors diagnosed her with balamuthia.
She died within weeks of checking into the hospital.
Now her family is urging people planning trips to lakes, rivers and water parks to wear nose plugs, and also avoid getting tap water in the nose.
“Nobody should die of something that’s preventable,” said Katelyn Thomas, Pier’s cousin told KTLA.