Brain-eating amoeba suspected in 2nd Midwest death

Brain-eating amoeba suspected in 2nd Midwest death

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) – A child likely died of a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba after swimming in an eastern Nebraska river, health officials said, making it the second probable death in the Midwest this year. summer and raising the number of deaths. question of whether climate change is playing a role.

The Douglas County Department of Health, based in Omaha, Nebraska, said Wednesday that doctors believe the child died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a usually fatal infection caused by the amoeba naegleria fowleri. Health officials believe the child came into contact with the amoeba on Sunday while swimming in the Elkhorn River west of Omaha.

Authorities have not released the child’s identity.

Last month, a Missouri resident died of the same infection likely caused by the amoeba in Lake of the Three Fires in southwest Iowa. Authorities in Iowa closed the lake beach as a precaution for nearly three weeks.

People usually become infected when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose while swimming or diving in lakes and rivers. Other sources have been documented, including contaminated tap water in a Houston area city in 2020. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, progressing to stiff neck, loss of balance, hallucinations and seizures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says naegleria fowleri infections are rare — there are about three cases in the United States each year — but that these infections are extremely fatal.

There were 154 cases reported between 1962 and 2021 in the US, with just four survivors, according to the CDC. Of those, 71 cases were reported between 2000 and 2021. Texas and Florida recorded the most infections with 39 and 37 cases, respectively, and the amoeba is typically found in the southern states because it thrives in waters warmer than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Fahrenheit). degrees Celsius). ).

But infections have migrated north in recent years, including two cases in Minnesota since 2010, noted Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsey Huse, during a press conference on Thursday.

“Our regions are getting warmer,” she said. “As things heat up and the water heats up and the water levels drop because of the drought, you see that this organism is much happier and normally grows in these situations.”

According to the National Water Information System, the surface water temperature near where the child was swimming was between 86 and 92 degrees.

Jacob Lorenzo-Morales, a researcher at the Universidad de La Laguna in the Canary Islands who has studied naegleria fowleri, said Thursday that the increase in infections since 2000 can be attributed to two factors: better knowledge and diagnosis of the disease and the rise in body temperature. of water providing “a perfect environment” for the amoeba to thrive.

Researcher Sutherland Maciver, who studied the amoeba at the Center for Discovery Brain Sciences at Edinburgh Medical School in Scotland, says that not all infections are reported and that the 430 cases that have already been reported worldwide are almost certainly an undercount. And, he said, scientists cannot say for sure that the Nebraska case is directly attributable to climate change.

The two researchers co-authored a paper titled “Is Naegleria fowleri an Emerging Parasite?” which examined the factors behind the increase in reported cases.

Health officials recommend that freshwater swimmers cover their noses, avoid putting their heads underwater, and avoid activities like water skiing and tubing, which can force water into their nose, eyes, or mouth. You cannot get infected by drinking contaminated water.

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