Local college student dies from rare 'brain-eating amoeba'

Kerry Stoutenburgh
Kerry Stoutenburgh

A 19-year-old City of Kingston woman and college film student died this week after contracting a rare "brain-eating amoeba," caused from diving into a Maryland river a few weeks ago, the girl's father said Friday.
Kerry Stoutenburgh died Wednesday at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley's Broadway Campus after her parents decided to take her off a respirator, according to her father, Donald Stoutenburgh. She was admitted on Aug. 29.
Stoutenburgh's is only the third confirmed case of the infection ever in New York, according to the state Department of Health.
Kerry Stoutenburgh graduated from Kingston High School in 2014, where she was a member of the swim team for four years, honor society, French honor society and took advanced placement classes, according to her father. She was a Girl Scout and played the mellophone and bass clarinet for her high school band.
Her father said the family lived on Wall Street since the year Kerry was born.
"She was always very active, always wanted to be part of anything," the father said. "I can't think of one person who never liked her."
Her father said doctors told the family that Kerry contracted the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, likely while diving in a Maryland swimming hole with family members and her boyfriend in August.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the amoeba is commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba" and, although rare, can cause a devastating infection called amebic meningoencephalitis.
The amoeba is commonly found in warm, freshwater bodies like lakes, rivers and hot springs, according to the CDC. It usually infects people when swimming or diving in contaminated water and enters the body through the nose. It doesn't cause infection if swallowed.
Donald Stoutenburgh said that his daughter, her boyfriend, his wife and his other daughter, Katherine Stoutenburgh, 22, had gone on vacation and on Aug. 20 had gone diving off a bridge at a local swimming hole. The Cecil County health department in Maryland said the infection likely happened in the local river but hadn't heard back from authorities.
The teen's father said that when his daughter came home from the trip she began throwing up and had a lingering headache. She was taken to the hospital, where she was given a shot of Benadryl and fluids then released.
But soon after getting home that day and resting she became incoherent, the father said.
The Ulster County Health Department and state Health Department confirmed Friday that the cause of the teen's death was the brain-eating amoeba.
The infection is incredibly rare and kills nearly all its victims. From 1962 through 2015, just 138 infections have been documented in the United States despite hundreds of millions of visits to swimming venues each year, according to the CDC. But most cases of the infection caused by the amoeba in the United States, 135 out of 138, have been fatal.
Carol Smith, commissioner of the Ulster County health department, said the infection likely occurred when Stoutenburgh dived off a covered bridge while on vacation, forcing water up her nose.
"It's very rare," Smith said. "It has a 97 percent fatality rate."
The Kingston teen had been living in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the beach, and had her first day of class at CUNY Brooklyn College on Aug. 20, where she was studying independent film with a minor in history. Her father said she wanted to become a filmmaker.
Donald Stoutenburgh said he's received hundreds of condolences from locals and around the world from those who knew his daughter. A "gofundme.com" page created on Thursday raised more than $7,000 toward its $8,000 goal by Friday afternoon from 132 people.
A wake has been scheduled for Monday at the Joseph V. Leahy Funeral Home in Kingston at 27 Smith Ave. Calling hours are from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Funeral preparations are still being worked out.
Source:Record online.com
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