In a follow-up on the suspect Naegleria fowleri death in Douglas County, Nebraska, the Douglas County Health Department reports receiving confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the presence of the parasitic amoeba on Thursday.
It is reported that the child contracted the “brain-eating amoeba” while swimming in the Elkhorn River.
Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, or PAM, is the disease caused by Naegleria fowleri, the amoeba that is found in almost all untreated, fresh surface water and in soil. The amoeba thrives in freshwater that is warmer than 80 degrees and stagnant or slow-moving.
PAM only infects people when water containing the amoeba enters through the nose, usually from diving or jumping into freshwater. The infection cannot be spread from person to person or by drinking contaminated water. The amoeba travels up the nose and makes its way into the brain along the olfactory nerve, destroying brain tissue.
Those infected with PAM will usually start showing symptoms about 5 days after the infection. It can often be mistaken for the flu or bacterial meningitis, as early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting and can then progress to loss of balance, a stiff neck, seizures and hallucinations. The disease progresses quickly once the symptoms start and usually causes death within two weeks of the initial infection.
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