DOUGLAS COUNTY, Neb. — Updated 2:17 p.m. EDT August 19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that a who died in Nebraska had contracted a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba, The Associated Press reported.
A child who died after swimming in Nebraska’s Elkhorn River over the weekend is the state’s first suspected case of brain-eating amoeba.
The Douglas County Health Department said in a news release that while the infection is suspected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting further testing to confirm the presence of Naegleria fowleri.
“We can only imagine the devastation this family must be feeling, and our deepest condolences are with them,” Dr. Lindsay Huse, Douglas County’s health director, said in a statement. “We can honor the memory of this child by becoming educated about the risk and then taking steps to prevent infection.”
Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoeba, is found in freshwater bodies of water in the United States and can cause a brain infection when the amoeba travels up the nose and into the brain, CNN reported. The infection is rare, but often fatal. According to the CDC, there have only been eight documented survivors of the infection in the United States.
“Infections typically occur later in the summer, in warmer water with slower flow, in July, August and September,” Dr. Matthew Donahue, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist, told USA Today in a statement. “Cases are more frequently identified in Southern states but more recently have been identified farther north.”
Health officials said that the best way to protect yourself is to plug your nose, and avoid submerging the head when swimming in freshwater or areas without proper chlorination, as well as avoiding stirring up sediment. Activities like water skiing and high-speed tubing increase the risk of exposure.
In a statement, Huse said that testing natural water sources for the organism is not recommended because it’s so commonly present.
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