Entries in Brain-Eating (2)


Brain-Eating Amoeba Eyed in Death of Minnesota Child

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Minnesota State Department of Health officials have been eyeing a rare parasitic amoeba in the death of a child.  The child, whose name, age and sex have not been released, is believed to have died from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that thrives in warm freshwater.

"Through swimming or diving, it can enter through the nose and gain access to the brain," said Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Health officials investigating the death said the child had been swimming at Lily Lake in Stillwater Minn., which has been closed until further notice.

While exceedingly rare, Naegleria fowleri infections are almost always fatal. Only one person out of 123 infected in the United States between 1962 and 2011 has survived, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's also not easy to diagnose, and it's not easy to treat," said Schaffner, describing how meningitis-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, nausea and stiff neck swiftly give way to confusion, seizures and hallucinations. The infection usually causes death within 12 days, according to the CDC.

In the summer of 2011, Naegleria fowleri killed four people in Virginia, Florida, Kansas and Louisiana, all of whom had been swimming in freshwater lakes.

"The organism seems to multiply better with warmth," said Schaffner, explaining how states with more sustained high temperatures tend to see more cases. "But this year in the Midwest we've had a heat wave and a drought, which makes lakes shallower. Even lakes up in Minnesota are warm."

Minnesota's only previously confirmed case of Naegleria fowleri, in August 2010, was also linked to Lily Lake, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

But state health department experts said the death should not discourage people from swimming in the state's lakes and rivers.

"The risk of infection from Naegleria in Minnesota is very low," assistant state epidemiologist Richard Danila said in a statement. "Swimming is a very healthy summertime activity and we do not want to discourage people from swimming. Rather, simply avoid swimming, diving or other activities in obviously stagnant water when temperatures are high and water levels are low."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Brain-Eating Amoeba Claims Fourth Victim

File photo. MEHAU KULYK/Getty Images(WINFIELD, Kan.) -- A Kansas resident died last week from what was likely a rare infection by a brain-eating amoeba, after swimming in a lake in August, state health officials said.  It is the fourth death this summer linked to the parasite, which is found in stagnant warm water.

The person, who hasn't been named, likely picked up the infection while swimming in Winfield City Lake in Cowley County, ABC News affiliate KAKE-TV in Wichita reported.

The Sedgwick County resident entered the hospital on Aug. 19 with headaches and developed breathing problems, and died five days later, according to the Kansas City Star.

Notices have been posted at the Winfield lake office and the swimming area, Winfield City Manager Warren Porter told the Star.  Residents have been warned not to swim in bodies of water that have been heated by a nuclear power plant, or dig up sediment in such places, according to the newspaper.

The brain-eating amoeba, also known as the parasite Naegleria, enters through the nose, travels through the sinuses and infects the brain and cerebrospinal fluid.

Though this parasite is very rare, it tends to grow in stagnant, fresh water during high summer temperatures, Barry Inman, an epidemiologist at the Brevard County, Florida Health Department, told ABC News.

The Kansas victim is the first person to have died from a brain-eating amoeba infection in Kansas.  Earlier last month, two children in Virginia and Florida died from the deadly parasite.  Another death was reported in Louisiana.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio