Child dies from brain-eating amoeba contracted near Bishop

Brain-eating amoeba Photo: Allan Ajifo / CC BY 2.0 via MGN.
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BISHOP, Calif. (KOLO)-- A child died over the weekend after contracting a brain-eating amoeba from a swimming area south of Bishop, Calif., the Mono County Health Department reported Friday.

The child, only described as being from Southern California, suffered a rare infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis and tested positive for Naegleria fowleri.

That one-celled organism enters the body not from drinking it but from swimming or diving, the health department said. The child's only known water exposure appears to be at one of the natural water ponds at Hot Ditch, a popular hot springs soaking area south of Bishop.

This is the second such case linked to untreated recreational water in Inyo County since 2015, the health department reported. In 2015 a 21-year-old person died after swimming in a private, untreated swimming pool in southern Inyo County.

The health department said symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis start quickly, usually within days of exposure, and include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within three to seven days.

In the US, there have been 34 cases reported in the United States from 2008 to 2017. Almost 90 percent of those cases were associated with swimming in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, the health department said. There are no known cases of amoeba contamination in the US in well-maintained, properly treated swimming pools, the health department said.

This happened in Inyo County but the report was sent by the Mono County Health Department.

It offered these tips:

• Keep your head above water in untreated hot springs or other thermally heated bodies of water and during activities where water is forced up the nose, like water sports and diving.
• Hold your nose shut or wear nose clips when swimming in warm, untreated freshwater.
• Avoid digging in or stirring up sediment in shallow, warm freshwater areas, where the ameba may live.
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high temperature and low water levels.
• Avoid swimming in polluted water or unchlorinated swimming pools.
• If using a neti pot for nasal cleansing or irrigation, use only filtered or boiled water.