Nebraska child dies from suspected infection with brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri


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A Nebraska child died this week after a suspected rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba – the first reported death from that specific organism in state history, according to State and local health authorities.

The child – who has not been publicly identified, to protect the family’s privacy – is believed to have contracted an infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAD), caused by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism found in warm freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes, and streams. Health authorities say the child may have been infected after swimming Aug. 8 in shallow water in the Elkhorn River in Douglas County.

Federal health officials are working to confirm the case, the Douglas County Health Department said.

“We can only imagine the devastation this family must feel, and our deepest condolences are with them,” said Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse. in a report Wednesday. “We can honor the memory of this child by learning about the risk and then taking action to prevent infection.”

This brain-eating amoeba kills 97% of the people it infects. Not Sebastian DeLeon.

Huse told reporters Thursday that the child engaged in “typical swimming activity.” Health experts say the amoeba can enter the body through the nose when in water.

The child was hospitalized five days after swimming, the health department said.

“We just want people to know there’s a risk there,” Huse said.

The brain-eating amoeba is most commonly found in freshwater springs in southern states. It is not found in salt water, such as the ocean, federal health officials said.

Infections of Naegleria fowleri are very rare. From 2012 to 2021, only 31 cases have been reported in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, the vast majority – 28 people – were infected in recreational waters. Two became infected after performing nasal irrigation with contaminated tap water, and one became infected from contaminated water on Slip ‘N Slide, the CDC said.

“Millions of recreational water exposures occur each year, while only 0 in 8 Naegleria fowleri infections are identified every year,” said Nebraska State Epidemiologist Matthew Donahue. said in a press releaseadding: “Limiting the chances of fresh water entering the nose is the best way to reduce the risk of infection.”

During the last years, 19-year-old woman died after being infected with the waterborne parasite in Maryland and a 6 year old boy and one 3 year old boy died in separate incidents after exposures in Texas.

People can become infected when water containing the amoeba gets into their noses – infection cannot occur by drinking contaminated water, and those who are infected cannot pass the infection on to others. others, the CDC said.

Symptoms of MPA, which destroys brain tissue, usually present about five days after infection and may initially include fever, headache and intestinal problems such as nausea or vomiting, according to the CDC. As the infection progresses, the CDC said, patients may experience neck stiffness, confusion, hallucinations and seizures.

Data shows that around 97% of those who get sick die from the infection. Only four patients over the past 60 years have survived. Death usually occurs within about five days of the onset of symptoms, the CDC said.

Although the risk of infection with Naegleria fowleri is very low, health experts recommend taking certain precautions, such as avoiding fresh water sources during the late summer weeks when infections are more likely to occur, refraining from submerging the head or engaging in activities such as diving that forces water into the nose, and, where possible, using a nose clip or manually blocking the nose when going underwater.

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