The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reports a resident has died from Naegleria fowleri infection, a rare infection that destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and in most cases, death.
Health officials, through an investigation involving testing and inspection, concluded that the individual was likely exposed at the Country Club of Little Rock splash pad.
ADH sent multiple samples from the pool and splash pad to the CDC. The CDC has reported one splash pad sample as confirmed to have viable Naegleria fowleri. The remaining samples are still pending. The department has been in contact with the Country Club of Little Rock, and they have been cooperative in inquiries with the ADH.
There is no ongoing risk to the public related to this exposure. The Country Club of Little Rock voluntarily closed the pool and splash pad, and they both remain closed. Naegleria fowleri cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person.
The last case reported in Arkansas was a decade ago when then 12-year-old Kali Hardig contracted the parasite. She did survive the infection. In fact, Kali was the first person to survive the infection in 35 years.
This is the 5th case reported in the US this year (Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, Nevada and Florida).
Naegleria fowleri lives in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and hot springs. It can also be found in pools and splash pads that are not properly maintained.
Naegleria fowleri is not found in salt water, such as the ocean, and it is not found in properly treated drinking water. It is important to maintain pools and splash pads by making sure that disinfection levels are appropriate and free of soil contamination.
Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection typically start with severe headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting and then progress to stiff neck, seizures, and coma that can lead to death. Symptoms usually begin about five days after infection but can start within one to twelve days.