It's very rare and deadly.
A child in Nebraska died from an infection caused by a rare brain-eating amoeba after going for a swim in a river, U.S. health officials confirmed Friday.
According to a news release by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the child, who has not been identified, was swimming with family in the shallow end of the Elkhorn River on Sunday.
The child was later found to have an infection typically caused by Naegleria fowleri, also known as a brain-eating amoeba. Local health authorities announced the suspected case at a news conference Thursday, and federal officials confirmed it on Friday, per the Associated Press.
It's the first recorded death from a brain-eating amoeba in Nebraska's history and just the second known case in the U.S. this summer. The other case was found in Iowa, where that patient also died.
Brain-eating amoeba are super rare and only 31 cases were reported between 2012 and 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The fatality rate is 97% and people typically start showing symptoms of headache, fever, nausea or vomiting within 5 days, the CDC says.
The brain-eating amoeba is usually found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals and ponds across the U.S., according to the DHHS. It usually enters the body through the nose and eventually reaches the brain, where it causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a rare but fatal brain infection.
Dr. Matthew Donahue, Nebraska's state epidemiologist, pointed out in the DHHS statement that "millions" of people go in the water each year, but only zero-to-eight of these infections are ever spotted.
“Infections typically occur later in the summer, in warmer water with slower flow, in July, August, and September. Cases are more frequently identified in southern states but more recently have been identified farther north.”
He said the best way to reduce your risk is to avoid getting water in your nose when swimming in an area which the amoeba might be present. That means not jumping or diving into the water, or submerging your head underwater.
The DHHS says you can't get an infection from pool water or from drinking contaminated water; it only happens when water goes up your nose.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
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