A child in Nebraska died from what is believed to be an infection with the so-called “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri. The child contracted the infection while swimming in a river.
Further testing by the CDC is being conducted to confirm the infection, which was likely picked up during a weekend swim in the Elkhorn River, according to the Douglas County Health Department.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that health officials have been silent on details about the child’s background.
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis is an extremely rare but ultimately fatal brain infection caused by the single-celled organism commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba” (PAM).
This happens when swimming and water containing the amoeba rushes up the nose and into the brain.
If the CDC can confirm the child died from the amoeba, it will be the first death in Nebraska ever associated with the organism, according to the state’s health department.
The symptoms, which typically appear between one and twelve days after infection, are described in a statement released by county health officials. Pain in the head, high body temperature, or an upset stomach could be symptoms.
Stiffness in the neck, muddled thinking, seizures, and other neurological symptoms may follow. Within five days of the onset of symptoms, death occurs in 97% of patients.
Our hearts go out to this family in their time of grief; please accept our sincere condolences. Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said, “We can honor the memory of this child by becoming educated about the risk and then taking steps to prevent infection.”
Dr. Matthew Donahue, the state epidemiologist for Nebraska, reports that only about eight infections are found each year in the United States, despite the fact that millions of people engage in freshwater recreational activities.
A Missouri man contracted the disease in late June while swimming at Lake of Three Fires State Park in southwestern Iowa.
The beach at the park was closed after the presence of the amoeba in the lake was confirmed by state health officials and the CDC. After the tests were finished in late July, it reopened.
The general public is cautioned to exercise caution when partaking in water sports like waterskiing or tubing, as well as those that involve jumping, diving, or dunks where water can be forced up the nose. When diving, it’s important to protect your nose from the water by using a plug or clip.
You cannot get an infection by drinking water in which the amoeba is present, nor from swimming in a pool that has not been properly cleaned or maintained.
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