Children's Health

Amoeba Parasite Kills Second U.S. Child This Month

Amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri.

Amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri.  (CDC/ Dr. Govinda S. Visvesvara)

A nine-year-old Virginia boy has become the second child in the U.S. to die this month after being infected by a dangerous freshwater amoeba, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday.

The boy, identified by family members as Christian Strickland, died Aug. 5. An autopsy found the death had been caused by primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which occurs after the amoeba enters the brain.

The Richmond boy's death comes roughly a week after Florida girl Courtney Nash, 16, was killed by the same parasite, which is commonly found in lakes and rivers.

Christian's mother, Amber Strickland, said he had been dunked in an unidentified body of water during a fishing camp he attended the week before he died. She told the Times-Dispatch she believes that is when he took in the contaminated water.

"He went from playing video games to being brain dead," she said.

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The disease, which cannot be transmitted person-to-person, spreads rapidly and usually results in death within days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials say that while the amoeba is rare—with just 32 infections in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010—it does increase in summer months when the water temperature rises.

Christian's death marked the first amoeba death in Virginia since 1969.

According to the Mayo Clinic Website, Naegleria infection begins within one to two weeks of exposure to the amoeba, and symptoms can include a change in the sense of smell or taste, fever, sudden headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and loss of balance. The symptoms can progress rapidly and typically lead to death within three to seven days.

Anyone who experiences these symptoms after swimming should seek medical attention immediately.

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