A 12-year-old Arkansas girl contracted a rare but deadly disease, parasitic meningitis.

A local neurosurgeon, Dr. David Jimenez, says the amoeba causing the disease, however, is not rare.

“The amoeba is very common. It is found in fresh water all throughout the world," said Jimenez, the UT Health Science Center's Neurosurgery chairman.

Jimenez said coming in contact with the amoeba is one of the risks of being exposed to fresh water this time of year in the south.

But the disease itself is very rare.

Only 128 people have contracted the brain-eating bacteria since 1962 -- although only two have survived.

The disease is not really brain eating bacteria, Jiminez said, despite its reputation.

"It is more of a meningitis, an inflammation, a swelling of the brain, and then brain death (occurs) because there is not enough oxygen through the brain," he said.

But you can’t just get the disease from jumping into the water.

“You literally have to force the water under a lot of pressure in that area and the water has to be loaded with amoeba (and) conditions have to be perfect for it to go through and get into the brain," he said.

Some of those moments may be swinging from a rope, water-skiing or wake-boarding. 

The easiest thing to do before you hit the water hard, according to Jimenez, is just cover your nose with your fingers. You could also use a nose plug or mask with an enclosed nose piece.

In a river, you should avoid stirring up the shallow water and then letting it get up your nose.

But Jimenez also reminds swimmers, “the one thing I think we need to remember it (contracting the disease) extremely rare."

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