Denison Girl Contracts Bacterial Infection Rare in the United States, Baffling Health Officials

The CDC is investigating how a bacterial infection that's common in Southeast Asia and Australia sickened a Denison 4-year-old with no recent travel history

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A North Texas girl who is battling a rare disease is back home with her family.

She's one of a handful of Americans who suffered a rare infection that's baffled public health officials.

First responders from her hometown of Denison escorted 4-year-old Lylah Baker as she left the care of the team at Children's Health in Dallas to continue her recovery at home.

Lylah is now unable to walk or talk, a hard reality for the family who just months ago, was celebrating Lylah's excitement for pre-k.

"She's a princess meets superhero. She's a girly-girl tomboy. She loves everything," said her aunt Ashley Kennon.

Lylah suffered a rare bacterial infection called melioidosis.

It is predominately a disease of tropical climates, especially in Southeast Asia and northern Australia where it is widespread, according to the CDC.

For Lylah, it started as a stomach virus but led to multiple secondary infections.

Within weeks, she was on a ventilator, had suffered brain damage and was fighting for her life.

Kennon said no one knows for sure how she became infected with the bacteria, found in contaminated soil or water.

"We have been working with the CDC and the local health departments. They have taken samples of everything we would have shared. They’ve done interviews. They’ve drawn blood from us," said Kennon, who said several members of the family had tested positive for exposure to the bacteria though no one else became sick.

"They’re working, trying to figure out what’s going on but at this point, there are no answers as to what. They focused in on cleaning products and certain foods, essential oil, different, random things," said Kennon.

No one, she said, had recently traveled out of the United States.

The CDC is investigating three other non-travel related cases of the illness.

According to this CDC health advisory from August, four people have been sickened by the bacteria. Two had died.

The August case in Georgia closely matches the three cases previously identified in Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas in 2021, indicating, "they all most likely share a common source of exposure," said the CDC advisory.

"They don't know if they'll be able to figure it out, but at this point, it doesn't matter," said Kennon.

Their focus now, she said, is helping Lylah recover.

Their home has been retrofitted for Lylah's wheelchair.

She will need constant care, but hope and faith is not in short supply among the family.

"We just want what's best for her. Everything else will fall into place but as long as she is taken care of and get what she needs, that's what matters to us," said Kennon.

To learn more about the rare tropical disease and its symptoms, visit the CDC's website.

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