Child in Nevada Dies of Brain-Eating Amoeba

A two-year-old child died of a rare brain-eating amoeba after visiting a Nevada hot spring, officials say.

A child, identified as Woodrow Bundy, contracted the infection at Ash Springs, located about 100 miles from Las Vegas, KLAS reported. He experienced flu-like symptoms before his health suddenly started deteriorating.

The child’s infection was caused by Naegleria fowleri amoeba, commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs across the United States. The risk of contracting the ameba is higher during the warmer months of July, August, and September.

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Last year, another boy in Nevada died from Naegleria fowleri contracted at Lake Mead.

People get infected when the amoeba-contaminated water enters the body through the nose, often while swimming or putting head under fresh water. The amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain, where it causes swelling and destroys the brain tissue, the condition called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

The infection is fatal 97% of the time: of 157 known infected individuals in the U.S. from 1962 to 2022, only four people survived, according to the CDC.

The first symptoms of PAM can start within one to 12 days, but usually, it takes about five days for the first signs to appear. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later the infected person can experience a stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations, and coma.

The disease progresses rapidly and typically causes death within about 5 days after the symptoms appear.

When swimming, you can reduce the risk of contracting Naegleria fowleri by preventing water from getting into your nose:

  • Avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater, especially during the summer.
  • Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when in bodies of warm fresh water.
  • Avoid putting your head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment in shallow, warm fresh water. The amebae are more likely to live in sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Although the infection is very rare, people should always assume there is a risk of catching Naegleria fowleri whenever entering warm fresh water, the CDC says.

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