A child died this week in the US with suspected primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM. The disease is caused by a parasite known as the “braineating amoeba.” With the scientific name Naegleria fowleri, it can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and neck stiffness; and swelling in the brain, which can lead to death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is conducting tests to confirm the cause of the infection, Douglas County Department of Health director Lindsay Huse told NBC.
“Right now we are just asking the public to be aware and to take precautions when exposed to any source of hot and fresh water,” Huse said at a news conference.
If confirmed, it would be the first reported death from Naegleria fowleri in Nebraska history, the state Department of Health and Human Services said.
The child died this week in Douglas County, which includes Omaha and communities west of the city, the county health department said in a news release.
Out of respect for the family, Lindsay did not want to give details about the identity of the victim. She only said the child went swimming in the Elkhorn River on the 8th and developed symptoms about five days later.
The child was hospitalized 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. “The death occurred 10 days after the child swam in the river,” Kari Neemann, a medical adviser for Douglas County, told NBC.
A unicellular organism, the amoeba lives in fresh, warm water such as lakes, streams, and hot springs, but can also be found in the soil.
People can become infected if a lot of contaminated water gets up their noses. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. The infection destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and death.
According to the CDC, about three people in the United States become infected each year, and they usually die. In recent years, the amoeba has been found more frequently in the northern states of the United States. According to the agency, this is happening due to the average increase in air and water temperatures, consequences of climate change.