A boy in Nevada has died from an infection caused by a deadly brain-eating amoeba days after swimming in Lake Mead (Pictures: Getty Images/NBC)
A child has died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba from swimming in Lake Mead.
A boy from Clark County, Nevada has died from an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, also known as a brain-eating amoeba.
Nevada health authorities have only identified the patient as male under age 18. They believe he was infected by the amoeba after swimming in the lake on October 5.
He developed symptoms about a week later. Health officials confirmed his death on October 19.
The boy was from southern Nevada, which shares Lake Mead with Arizona (Picture: NBC)
‘My condolences go out to the family of this young man,’ said Dr Fermin Leguen, District Health Officer for the Southern Nevada Health District.
‘While I want to reassure the public that this type of infection is an extremely rare occurrence, I know this brings no comfort to his family and friends at this time.’
Naeglaria are single-celled organisms commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Only one species of Naeglaria infect humans – Naeglaria fowleri.
The amoeba enters the body through the nose, where it slowly begins to destroy brain tissue.
Naeglaria fowleri are thermophilic organisms that prefer to live in warm bodies of fresh water (Picture: Getty Images)
Naeglaria fowleri cannot infect humans if swallowed, and it cannot be spread from person-to-person.
Once in the brain, it causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
Symptoms for PAM usually start with a headache five days after exposure. Patients usually report fever, nausea, vomiting, stiffness to the neck, seizures, and coma.
There is no routine test for Naeglaria fowleri, and there is no known effective treatment for PAM due to how rare the infection is.
The death rate for PAM is an alarming 97%. Only four people in the United States have survived the infection since the CDC began collecting data in 1962.
However, infections from Naelgaria fowleri and incredibly rare. There have only been 31 cases of PAM in the United States between 2012 and 2021. A majority of those cases came from recreational swimming.
At least two other people have died this year from Naeglaria fowleri. A young boy was infected in August after swimming in the Elkhorn River in Nebraska.
In another case, a patient was infected after swimming in the Lake of Three Fires in Iowa.
The CDC does have some tips for minimizing exposure to Naeglaria fowleri. Generally avoid jumping or diving into warm bodies of fresh water, especially in the summer. The amoeba is a thermophilic, or heat-loving, organism and prefers water above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid putting your head underwater at all when swimming in untested hot springs.
Always properly clean, maintain, and disinfect swimming pools before use. In rare cases, Naeglaria fowleri can be found in poorly maintained or insufficiently chlorinated pools.
Avoid digging or stirring up sediment in warm lakes and rivers – Naeglaria fowleri feed on other microscopic organisms found in underwater soil.
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The infection has an alarming 97% death rate.