North Carolina child dies of brain-eating amoeba after swimming in family pond

The death of a child in North Carolina followed their contraction of an illness caused by a rare-brain eating amoeba.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a release Tuesday that the child, who died Friday, contracted an illness caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba generally found in freshwater that only causes illness if it goes up the nose.

The illness was confirmed by testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The child got sick after swimming in a pond located on their family’s property in central North Carolina early this month, according to the release. The health department said it would not be providing any additional identifying information.

“Our heart-felt condolences and sympathies are with the family and friends of this child,” said state epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D.

Noting such infections, which are called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), “are very rare,” Moore pointed to the tragedy as a reminder that this amoeba exists in the state and people can take certain precautions to reduce the risk of such infections during summer swims. People are encouraged, for instance, to hold their nose or keep their head above water when in freshwater.

Symptoms of the infection, which affects the brain, include severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can then progress to stiff neck, seizures, and coma and can be fatal.

Naegleria fowleri grows the most at higher temperatures and resulting infections usually happen during prolonged periods of heat, according to the release.

The child’s death was reported just days after the death of David Pruitt, a 7-year-old California boy who was hospitalized on July 30 with PAM.

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