Boy dies after being infected by a rare brain-eating amoeba, people warned about swimming in fresh water
- A boy from Las Vegas as died after being infected by a brain-eating amoeba.
- Officials say he might have been exposed when visiting Lake Mead.
A teenager from Las Vegas died after being infected by a rare brain-eating amoeba, the Southern Nevada Health District said Wednesday.
The boy, who was under 18, might have been exposed at Lake Mead on the Arizona side of the lake, according to the department.
The amoeba, medically called Naegleria fowleri, infects people by entering the nose and traveling up through the brain. The infection destroys brain tissue and causes brain swelling and death.
It cannot infect people if swallowed, and the infection is not contagious between people.
The boy developed symptoms around a week after visiting Lake Mead in early October, the health district said. Initial symptoms include headaches, fever, and nausea, and worsen to include a stiff neck, seizures, and hallucinations.
The infection is extremely rare, according to the department, but is almost always fatal. Between 1962 and 2021, 154 US residents caught the infection, and only four survived.
The highest number of reported cases have been in Texas and Florida, and this is only the second death caused by the amoeba in Nevada, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Epidemiologists have said the report of the boy's death should not cause panic.
Brian Labus, a former public health epidemiologist,who teaches at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told The Guardian that the brain-eating amoeba "gets people's attention because of the name" but is a "very, very rare disease."
"I wouldn't say there's an alarm to sound for this," Labus told the paper. "People need to be smart about it when they're in places where this rare amoeba actually lives."
The Southern Nevada Health District said that the amoeba is typically found in bodies of fresh warm water and that precautions can be taken to avoid the risk of infection.
These include avoiding jumping into bodies of warm fresh water, keeping your head above the water, and avoiding digging or stirring sediment in shallow warm fresh water.
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