Beaufort, South Carolina — Hannah Collins, a fun-loving 11-year-old, from Beaufort, South Carolina was crowned the winner of the Miss Rice Festival pageant in April. It was the recent highlight of her young life and a great way to kick off the summer.
Hannah was like every other 11 year old girl. She loved her family and her friends. She had her whole life ahead of her and she was ready to enjoy it.
She was out swimming on any average Saturday and splashing around in the Edisto River. Her father said she was jumping into the water by swinging from a rope. He even gave her the nickname “his little river rat”. In the heat of the summer, all she wanted was to have a good time.
Unfortunately, within days of her swim, she fell extremely ill and fought for almost a month against the amoeba that was infecting her. She was admitted to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she passed away last Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that she was exposed to something called the Naegleria fowleri organism. This is a one-celled organism that is found in warm bodies of freshwater. It actually triggers an infection in the brain called an amebic mengioencephalitis which destroys the tissue it come in contact with. There is a 97% fatality rate for those who contract this infection.
The river waters of the Carolinas are known to host these deadly organisms. In a striking similar case, an 18-year-old Ohio woman also died when she too contracted the Naegleria fowleri organism while river rafting in Charlotte, North Carolina.