A young boy died after Nebraska experienced its first case of a brain-eating amoeba. Although the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services did not release the boy’s identity, the youngster’s case is the first in the state’s history once the deadly bacteria have been confirmed. Officials believe the child picked up the fatal germ while swimming in the Elkhorn River. FOX 42 in Omaha reported that the child died on Wednesday. He began experiencing symptoms five days after exposure to the water.
“Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that is commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds throughout the United States,” the department said in a news release. “It can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that may result when water containing the amoeba rushes up the nose and reaches the brain. The infection is extremely rare but nearly always fatal.”
Nebraska State Epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue said that although rivers, lakes, and ponds are splashing grounds for millions of people, the chance of being exposed to Naegleria fowleri is rare.
Typically, about 8 cases are seen a year and occur during the later summer months when the temperatures have warmed, and water movement has slowed down. These cases usually pop up in southern states; however, in recent years, they have been found in more northern regions.
It is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for states to test untreated rivers and lakes for the bug “because the amoeba is naturally occurring and there is no established relationship between detection or concentration of Naegleria fowleri and risk of infection,”
According to the CDC, the US rarely sees cases of the bacteria. Only 131 infections have been documented by the agency and the last ten years. Although catching the infection is rare, chances of survival are few. According to the CDC, the bacteria kill 97% of its victims. Only four out of the 154 people with known infections have survived between 1962 and 2021.