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Minnesota Teen May be Latest to Contract Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba Linked to Warm Water

A Minnesota teen who contracted a rare brain infection died Thursday after swimming in a Minnesota lake, hospital officials confirm.

Health officials are working to determine if Hunter Boutain, 14, died as a result of Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that destroys brain tissue. Naegleria fowleri is linked to warm water temperatures and humans are infected after the organism travels through the nose before migrating to the brain.

According to the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health do not have a timeline for definitive results to confirm a case of Naegleria fowleri. If confirmed, it will be the state's third case.

"Hunter's condition deteriorated throughout the night and he was declared brain dead this morning. Hunter died surrounded by his family. It is a deeply emotional time for all us. We ask for privacy and prayers as we remember our beloved Hunter," family spokesperson and his uncle Bryan Boutain said.

The organisms are commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, ponds and hot springs. The teen was swimming in Lake Minnewaska, roughly 65 miles west of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

High temperatures in the summer months elevate the risk of coming into contact with the brain-eating amoeba. Most infections occur during July, August and September when there is prolonged heat and thus higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

However, a lack of significantly warmer conditions for a prolonged period of time likely kept water temperatures in the region near normal for this time of year, AccuWeather Meteorologist Krissy Pydynowski said.

Though the amoeba is widely found, the chances of being infected remain low because it is not a parasite that seeks human hosts.

However, once contracted, death is most often the result. After initial symptoms such as headaches, vomiting and fever, the infection progresses rapidly and in most cases causes death within three to 18 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the last 52 years, 133 cases have been reported in the U.S. Only three people survived.

Tips for Summer Swimmers From the CDC:

Hold your nose shut, use nose clips or keep your head above water in warm bodies of freshwater.

Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm bodies of freshwater.

Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.

Do not put your head under water in hot springs.