Boy Killed by Brain-Eating Amoeba in Tap Water: First Verified Case

The first situation of someone contracting a deadly brain-eating amoeba from water believed to be safe from the tap has been confirmed. In a paper issued lately, the scientists detail the case of a 5-year-old child in Louisiana who was diagnosed with the infection two years ago.

Though the presence of brain-eating amoebas in the first place appears like something out of Star Trek, Naegleria fowleri was first discovered in the mid-1960s and kills about eight people each year in the United States.

The precedure of death is called primary amebic meningoencephalitis,” or PAM, and comprised of Naegleria fowleri entering the body via the nasal passages and penetrating bone between the sinuses and the brain. Once into the brain, it starts consuming neural tissue and affecting the brain to swell.

Preceding infections have been supposed to have been produced through exposure to freshwater, or tap water that had been mixed with fresh water. Due to the mechanism of infection, the disease is often related with swimming in warm fresh water or using netti pots with polluted fresh water. The amoeba may also be found in soil, but signifies little threat in that environment. It has not been found to survive in salt water.

Symptoms typically appear within a week of contact and may comprise sensory changes in taste and small, headaches, fever, nausea, increasing confusion and hallucinations and eventually ataxia and seizures. Death normally happens within two weeks of symptoms emerging.

Even though cases of infection are very rare, the casualty rate for those unlucky plenty to contract PAM is more than 95%.

After widespread study, a team of researchers was able to determine that the victim in the Louisiana case had no other stated exposure to fresh water immediately prior to contracting the infection. Moreover, testing of the tap water stream at his home and in the water supply system serving the area exposed the existence of the hazardous strain of amoeba. The boy had been exposed while playing on a slip-n-slide joined to the home’s tap water supply.

According to the abstract of the report, the case highlights the significance of sufficiently sterilizing water distribution systems, mainly where water sources for the drinking water systems have raised temperatures.

Naegleria fowleri encyst in temperatures below 50 degrees Farenheit, so problems with infection seldom occur in areas with cooler waters. However, recent cases in Minnesota and Indiana have shown the growth of the amoeba outside its typical geographical range.

In Louisiana, in the meantime, efforts to test for the amoeba have been improved and higher levels of chlorine suggested for water treatment operations. A cluster of cases in the state post-Hurricane Katrina have caused doubts that water systems there may have become polluted in the flooding that came with the hurricane. However, researchers questioned by National Geographic also pointed out that many infections thrive during disaster due to lower sanitation standards and more outdoor contact among affected populations.

Health and Medicine

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