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A Nebraska child has died of a rare brain-eating amoeba.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has not identified the young victim, but said the death would be the first case of a brain-eating amoeba to kill anyone in state history, if the cause is confirmed. The child likely picked up the amoeba while swimming in the Elkhorn River, the department said. The child started showing symptoms five days after being exposed and died on Wednesday, FOX 42 in Omaha reported.
“Naegleria fowleric is an amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals and ponds in the United States,” the department said in a press release. “It can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that can occur when water contains the amoeba, flows through the nose and reaches the brain. The infection is extremely rare, but almost always fatal.”
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Despite millions of people swimming in rivers, lakes and ponds, the risk of exposure to Naegleria fowleric is extremely rare, said epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue of the State of Nebraska. Usually no more than eight cases are diagnosed per year and they usually crop up later in the summer when the water is warmer and moves more slowly.
Donahue said cases were historically more common in southern states; however, in recent years they have become more common in the north.
In addition to the rare cases of coming into contact with the amoeba, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that states take the time to test untreated rivers and lakes, “because the amoeba occurs naturally and there is no established association between detection or concentration of Naegleria fowleric and risk of infection,” the press release said.
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Brain-eating amoebae are rare in the US, according to the CDC. In the past 10 years, the CDC has recorded 31 infections. Although rare, the chances of survival after contact with a brain-eating amoeba are slim. The death rate is 97 percent, according to the CDC, and only four of the 154 known infections between 1962 and 2021 have survived.
Fox News Digital has contacted Nebraska DHHS.
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