OMAHA, Nebraska – Federal health officials reported on Friday that a Nebraska boy who had just been swimming in a river close to Omaha passed away from a rare sickness brought on by a brain-eating amoeba.
According to the Douglas County Department of Health in Omaha, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified that the infant had the naegleria fowleri amoeba.
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Freshwater lakes and rivers are the most common places to find the amoeba. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC’s confirmation makes this the first known Naegleria fowleri death in Nebraskan history.
The Douglas County health department reported that the unnamed child passed away this week. According to county health director Lindsay Huse, the child’s symptoms started roughly five days after being exposed to Naegleria fowleri while swimming in a shallow region of the Elkhorn River on August 8.
Dr. Kari Neemann, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and a medical advisor for Douglas County, said the youngster was admitted to a hospital within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and passed away days later.
Throughout the United States, warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds are frequently home to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, according to the Nebraska Department of Health.
Infected swimming in the Elkhorn River on Sunday, a few miles west of Omaha, according to health officials. The name of the child is being withheld by the authorities.
People are usually infected when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose while swimming in or diving into lakes and rivers. Other sources have been documented, including tainted tap water in a Houston-area city in 2020.
This summer’s primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which has been lethal in 97% of documented cases, has claimed the lives of two people in the Midwest. Health officials have reported that a Missouri man who had been swimming in Lake of Three Fires in southwest Iowa in July passed away from the virus.
Fever, headache, nausea, or vomiting are some of the symptoms of the illness. Later on, a stiff neck, loss of balance, hallucinations, and seizures may also appear.
According to the CDC, there are just three cases of naegleria fowleri infections reported in the United States per year. In the U.S., 154 cases were documented between 1962 and 2021, but only four people survived. There have only ever been 430 cases reported worldwide.
Due to the amoeba’s preference for waters warmer than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, infections from it commonly occur in southern areas in the United States (30 Celsius). However, infections have been moving north in recent years, with two cases reported in Minnesota since 2010.
After visiting a beach in Iowa, a Missouri resident was diagnosed with Naegleria fowleri infection and promptly passed away in July. The brain-eating amoeba was also the cause of the death of a young child in North Texas in September.
This week, according to the county health department, more testing was done by the CDC to determine the exact cause of the child’s death.
There are measures people can take when considering swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers, according to health experts, even if the likelihood of contracting Naegleria fowleri is low.
Only 0 to 8 Naegleria fowleri infections are discovered annually, even though there are millions of recreational water exposures per year, according to Donahue. According to Donahue, infections often happen between July and September in warmer water with a slower flow.
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