Juvenile dies of brain-eating amoeba after possible infection at Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS (CLASS) – A minor in Clark County, Nevada, died from an infection with Naegleria fowleri, also known as a brain-eating amoeba.

Based on an investigation by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), the individual – a male under the age of 18 – is believed to have been exposed to the amoeba on the Arizona side of Lake Mead near the beginning of October, and symptoms began to develop about a week days later.

Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers and geothermal waters, such as hot springs, SNHD officials said in a news release. The amoeba infects humans by entering the body through the nose and traveling to the brain. It cannot infect humans if swallowed and is not transmitted from person to person.

Health officials stress that the infection is extremely rare, but almost always fatal.

“My condolences to the family of this young man,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer for the health district, in a statement. “While I want to reassure the public that this type of infection is extremely rare, I know that it brings no comfort to his family and friends at this time.”

The Centers for Disease Control notified the health district that the amoeba was actually the cause of the boy’s death. The health district said amoeba infection is caused by primary amoebic
meningoencephalitis (PAM), an infection of the brain that initially includes headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting, and progresses to a stiff neck, seizures, and coma, which can lead to death.

CDC has included the following precautions:
• Avoid jumping or diving into warm freshwater, especially during summer.
• Keep your nose closed, use nose clips or keep your head above water when in warm bodies
fresh water.
• Avoid submerging your head in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.
• Avoid burying or mixing sediment in shallow warm fresh water.

The CDC has confirmed that the amoeba occurs naturally and there is no routine test for Naegleria fowleri.

According to a statement released by Lake Mead officials, the lake will remain open for swimming and recreation.

“The National Park Service, in cooperation with the NPS Office of Public Health, did
the decision to continue to allow recreational swimming at Lake Mead National Recreation because the organism exists naturally and commonly in the environment, but the disease is extremely rare,” said Dr. Maria Said, US Public Health Service officer. “However, recreational water users should
always assume risk whenever they enter warm fresh water.”

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