Benton girl with rare form of meningitis in critical condition


LITTLE ROCK — A 12-year-old Benton girl who contracted a rare form of parasitic meningitis, possibly at an Arkansas water park, remained in critical condition at Arkansas Children’s Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Kali Hardig has been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a form of meningitis caused by an amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri which is associated with warm rivers, lakes and streams.

The case is the sixth in Arkansas in the last 40 years; the other five were fatal. Chances of contracting the infection are estimated at 1 in 32 million.

State health officials have identified Willow Springs Water Park, a sand-bottom, spring-fed lake just east of Little Rock, as the likely source of the infection. The park has voluntarily closed in response to health officials’ findings.

The state Health Department has recommended that swimmers take precautions during extremely warm periods such as keeping your head out of the water; avoiding diving or other activities that push water up the nose; using nose clips or holding the nose shut; and avoiding stirring up dirt or sand at the bottom of shallow freshwater areas.