- A Nebraska child died this week of suspected Naegleria fowleri infection.
- Commonly referred to as brain-eating amoebas, Naegleria fowleri infections are “extremely rare, but almost always fatal,” notes the Nebraska Department of Health.
- Naegleria fowleri causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection.
A child in Nebraska has died of a suspected infection with Naegleria fowleri, or brain-eating amoeba, local health officials said.
The child was most likely infected while swimming in the Elkhorn River near Omaha, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed, the case would be the first known death from a brain-eating amoeba in state history.
The Douglas County Health Department said Wednesday that the child died this week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is performing additional tests to confirm the rare infection.
“We can only imagine the devastation this family must feel, and our deepest condolences are with them,” Douglas County Chief Health Officer Dr. Lindsay Huse said in a statement. statement wednesday. “We can honor the memory of this child by learning about the risk and then taking action to prevent infection.”
Swimming in fresh water? Here’s what to know about the rare brain-eating Naegleria fowleri.
Where are brain-eating amoebas found?
According to the Nebraska Department of Health, Naegleria fowleri is a type of amoeba found throughout the United States, especially in southern states – in warm freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers. .
“Infections typically occur later in the summer, in warmer waters with slower flow, in July, August and September. Cases are more commonly identified in southern states, but more recently have been identified further north,” Nebraska state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue said. said in a statement.
How dangerous are brain-eating amoebas?
When water containing the amoeba enters the nose and reaches the brain, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection, can result.
An infection from the brain-eating amoeba is “extremely rare but almost always fatal,” according to the state agency. Douglas County Health notes that 97% of cases result in death within about five days of the onset of symptoms.
Missouri:Rare brain-eating infection found in Missouri patient; here’s how to protect yourself
How rare are brain-eating amoebas?
“Millions of recreational water exposures occur each year, while only 0 to 8 Naegleria fowleri infections are identified each year,” Donahue said in the statement.
There have been 154 known PAM infections caused by Naegleria fowleri in the United States between 1962 and 2021, according to the CDC. Only four of the infected survived.
What is everyone talking about? Subscribe to our trendy newsletter to receive the latest news of the day
What are the symptoms of Naegleria fowleri?
Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection can begin with fever, nausea, and headache, according to the CDC. This can progress to a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, and coma.
How to avoid brain-eating amoebas
The best way to avoid a Naegleria fowleri infection is to avoid swimming and other activities in warm fresh water, according to the CDC. If you go underwater, hold your nose or avoid submerging your head completely in the water.
Infections will not occur in pools that have been properly cleaned and sanitized. Naegleria fowleri is also not spread from person to person or by drinking contaminated water – infection only occurs when water containing amoebas enters the nose, note the Department of Health. Nebraska Health and Douglas County Health.