(Image: © Shutterstock)
A boy in California died from a rare“brain-eating” amoebainfection after swimming in a hot spring, according to a new report.
In October 2018, the boy swam in a natural freshwater pool in an area known as Hot Ditch, a popular recreational spot in the Eastern Sierra region of California supplied by warm spring water and frequently visited by local residents and tourists alike. Twelve days later, the symptoms set in. After two days of being racked by fever, headaches and vomiting, the boy was brought to an intensive care unit in Southern California, where he experienced respiratory failure.
A CT scan revealed swelling in the brain; when doctors sampled cerebrospinal fluid through the patient’s lower spine, they discovered microorganisms known asNaegleria fowleri.The case was described today (Sept. 13) in theMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
N. fowleri,a single-celled organism found in warm freshwater bodies, can enter the brain only via the nose, according to theCDC. The amoeba cannot be contracted by swallowing contaminated water. Once inside the brain, the amoeba multiplies byfeeding on brain tissue, causing an often-fatal conditionknown as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). As nervous tissue is destroyed, the organ swells dangerously. Of the 145 known individuals who contractedN. fowleriin the U.S. between 1962 and 2018, just foursurvivedthe infection, wrote the CDC.
The California boydiedafter three days of treatment in the hospital. The unfortunate incident marks the ninthcase of PAMin the state since the first reported in 1971, and stands as the third case in a patient exposed to spring water, specifically, according to the MMWR. The infection is rare, but occurs most frequently in southern states and in young males exposed to warm waters during the summer. Today (Sept. 13), anothercase was reportedin Texas where a girl named Lily Mae contracted the infection after swimming in the Brazos River, according to KWTX.
The CDC notes that testing a body of water forN. fowlerican take weeks, and that no faster test is available. People who swim in warm fresh water should take note of the low risk, but canprotect themselvesby preventing water from going up their nose. The risk rises slightly in times when water levels drop and water temperature spikes, according to a2019 statementby the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
“Cases are extremely rare, despite the millions of people who swim in lakes and rivers every year,” Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen told KWTX.
- 10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species
- Eating Brains: Cannibal Tribe Evolved Resistance to Fatal Disease
- 27 Oddest Medical Case Reports
Originally published onLive Science.