A brain-eating amoeba may have killed a child in Nebraska, officials say

A brain-eating amoeba may have killed a child in Nebraska, officials say


A Nebraska child died this week after a suspected rare infection of a brain-eating amoeba — the first reported death of that particular organism in state history, according to state and local health authorities.

The child – who has not been publicly identified to protect the privacy of the family – is said to have contracted an infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), caused by Naegleria fowleric, a unicellular organism found in warm freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes and streams. Health authorities say the child may have been infected after swimming in shallow water in Douglas County’s Elkhorn River on Aug. 8.

Federal health officials are working to confirm the case, the Douglas County Health Department said:.

“We can only imagine the devastation this family must feel, and our deepest condolences are with them,” said Lindsay Huse, Douglas County health director. in a statement Wednesday. “We can honor the memory of this child by being educated about the risk and then taking steps to prevent infection.”

This brain-eating amoeba kills 97 percent of the people it infects. Not Sebastian De Leon.

Huse told reporters on Thursday that the child was engaged in “typical swimming activity.” Health experts say that the amoeba in the water can enter the body through the nose.

The child was hospitalized five days after swimming, the health department said.

“We just want people to be aware that there is a risk,” Huse said.

The brain-eating amoeba is most commonly found in freshwater springs in southern states. It is not found in salt water, such as the ocean, federal health authorities said.

Infections of Naegleria fowleric are very rare. From 2012 to 2021, only 31 cases were reported in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, the vast majority – 28 people – were contaminated in recreational water. Two were contaminated after performing nasal irrigation with contaminated tap water, and one was contaminated by contaminated water on Slip ‘N Slide, the CDC said.

“There are millions of recreational water exposures every year, while only 0 to 8 Naegleria fowleric Infections are diagnosed every year,” Nebraska state epidemiologist Matthew Donahue said in a statement, adding: “Limiting the possibilities for freshwater to get into the nose is the best way to reduce the risk of infections.” reduce infection.”

In recent years, a 19-year-old woman died after becoming infected with the waterborne parasite in Maryland and a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old boy died in separate incidents after exposure in Texas.

People can become infected when water containing the amoeba passes through the nose — infection cannot occur by drinking contaminated water, and those who are infected cannot transmit the infection to others, the CDC said.

Symptoms of PAM, which destroys brain tissue, usually appear about five days after infection and may initially include fever, headache and intestinal problems such as nausea or vomiting, according to the CDC. As the infection progresses, the CDC said, patients may experience a stiff neck, confusion, hallucinations and seizures.

Data shows that an estimated 97 percent of those who get sick die from the infection. Only four patients in the past 60 years have survived. Death usually occurs within about five days of the onset of symptoms, according to the CDC.

Although the risk of infection from Naegleria fowleric is very low, health professionals recommend taking certain precautions, such as avoiding freshwater sources during the late summer weeks when infections are more likely, not immersing the head or engaging in activities such as diving that involves squeezing water into the nose, and, if possible, use a nose clip or manually close the nose when going under water.

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