A tragic incident has occurred in Arkansas, where a child has died after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba while playing at a splash pad. The identity of the child has not been revealed, but health officials have confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri, the amoeba responsible for the infection, at the splash pad of the Country Club of Little Rock. Naegleria fowleri is known to thrive in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and hot springs, but it can also be transmitted to humans through under-chlorinated bodies of water like swimming pools and surf parks.
While such infections are rare, they are often fatal. In the United States, only about three people are infected each year, with a fatality rate of more than 97%. Since 1962, out of the 157 known infected individuals, only four have survived. Symptoms of an infection include severe headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, and coma, which can eventually lead to death. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain.
Although the geographical areas where Naegleria fowleri is typically found have been concentrated in states like Texas and Florida, there is evidence to suggest their expansion northwards as a result of climate change. Cases have been confirmed in states including Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, and northern California. The changing climate, with higher air and water temperatures, provides a more favorable environment for the amoeba to grow, particularly during heatwaves. The CDC urges caution when engaging in activities that may introduce water into the nose, such as diving, jumping, or submerging the head in water.
It is important to note that infections can also occur when using contaminated tap water for religious practices or nasal rinsing. The CDC advises swimmers to avoid stirring up sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds, or rivers, as the amoeba is more likely to reside there. As for prevention, ensuring adequate chlorination of water in public recreational areas and private swimming pools is crucial to reducing the risk of infection.
– Arkansas Department of Health
– US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)