How common is the “brain-eating amoeba”? 2:09
(WABNEWS) — A boy has died after becoming infected with a rare brain-eating amoebato which authorities believe he may have been exposed in Lake Mead, the Southern Nevada Health District said Wednesday.
The boy may have found the organism, called Naegleria fowleri, in the Kingman Wash area of the park, located on the Arizona side of the lake near Hoover Dam, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area said in a statement.RELATED
Officials did not release the name or exact age of the person who died, but said he was under 18.
“This is the first confirmed death caused by exposure to Naegleria Fowleri in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area,” the park said.
The microscopic amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater, but infections are rare, according to CDC. Only 31 Naegleria fowleri infections were reported in the United States between 2012 and 2021, the CDC said. Although infections are rare, they are almost always fatal.
Someone can become infected when water containing the amoeba gets into their nose, usually while swimming, diving or submerging their head under water, the CDC said. It cannot cause infection if ingested and does not spread from person to person.
This is at least the third fatal Naegleria fowleri infection this year, including a boy in nebraska who got sick after swimming in a river and a Missouri man who contracted the infection on a beach.
An investigation by the Southern Nevada Health District determined the child may have been exposed as early as October and began developing symptoms about a week later, the district said.
“My condolences to the family of this young man,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, Health Officer for the Southern District of Nevada. “While I want to assure the public that this type of infection is an extremely rare event, I know this is of no comfort to his family and friends at this time.”
The National Park Service will continue to allow recreational swimming in Lake Mead, according to the park’s statement. US Public Health Service official Dr. Maria Said explained in a statement that the decision took into account that “the organism exists naturally and commonly in the environment, but the disease is extremely rare.”
“However, recreational water users should always assume there is a risk any time they enter warm fresh water,” Said advised.
The park urged people to take CDC-recommended precautions, including avoiding jumping and diving into warm fresh water, holding your nose when swimming, keeping your head above water, and avoiding submersion in hot springs.