Brain-eating amoeba suspected in child death in Nebraska

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A rare brain-eating amoeba is suspected in a child’s death in Douglas County, Nebraska. The infection most likely happened as the child swam in the Elkhorn River, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“We can only imagine the devastation this family must be feeling, and our deepest condolences are with them,” the Douglas County health director, Dr. Lindsay Huse, 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.”

The county health department urged people to take precautions like plugging the nose, avoiding submerging the head and/or avoiding water entering the nose.

Nebraska DHHS said the Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers, canals and ponds throughout the United States. Symptoms usually occur 1-12 days following infection and can include headache, nausea, fever, stiff neck, vomiting and seizures.

If confirmed the child’s death would be Nebraska’s first from the brain-eating amoeba.

“Millions of recreational water exposures occur each year, while only 0 to 8 Naegleria fowleri infections are identified each year. Infections typically occur later in the summer, in warmer water with slower flow, in July, August, and September,” said state epidemiologist, Dr. Matthew Donahue in a statement.

He said limiting opportunities for water to get into the nose are the best ways to prevent the risk of the amoeba infection.

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