A New York college student has died of a rare brain infection she probably contracted while swimming in a body of fresh water in Maryland, health officials said.
Nineteen-year-old Kerry Stoutenburgh of Kingston, New York, died in Kingston on Aug. 31, weeks after officials say she visited Cecil County in northeastern Maryland and swam in county waters.
Dr. Carol Smith, health commissioner in Ulster County, New York, told the Daily Freeman officials there confirmed that Stoutenburgh's death was caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.
Gregg Bortz, spokesman for the Cecil County health department in Maryland, said by phone Tuesday that New York State officials notified his agency on Sept. 2 of Stoutenburgh's death.
The amoeba occurs naturally in bodies of warm, fresh water, Bortz said. He added that it is widespread, especially in Southern states.
While the amoeba can forcefully enter through the nose and travel up the olfactory nerve to the brain, he said, the risk of infection is low. But his health department says anyone jumping into a warm body of water should hold their nose, and anyone swimming in a river, lake or pond should wear a nose clip.
Stoutenburgh was a student at CUNY Brooklyn College, majoring in film and photography.