A boy who lived in Tehama County, California (USA), died after coming into contact with an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba, says the American website SF Gate.
On Aug. 7, David Pruitt, just 7 years old, died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or amoebic brain infection, says his aunt, Crystal Hayley, cited by the site.
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The child was rushed to the emergency room on July 30 and then admitted to the University of California Medical Center, where he had to be kept on life support after being diagnosed with severe brain swelling, according to the SF Gate.
As the site shows, only 10 cases of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis have been reported in California since 1971. David Pruitt was probably infected after swimming in a lake in Tehama, but the exact location is not known.
Typically, victims of this disease are infected by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which is often found in fresh water, especially rivers and lakes. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cited by the SF Gate, most infections occur through the nose while people are swimming or diving.
Early symptoms include severe headache, fever and nausea, which become more severe and include seizures, hallucinations and even coma.
These symptoms are similar to those of bacterial meningitis, one of the reasons the diagnosis can be difficult. “Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis is difficult to detect because the disease progresses quickly, so the diagnosis is usually made after death,” reveals the CDC, cited by the American website.
Agency data show that 148 “brain-eating” amoeba infections were reported in the US between 1962 and 2019 and only four people survived. Most cases were registered in men and children.
“The extremely low occurrence of amoebic brain infection makes epidemiological study difficult. It is not known why certain people become infected with the microbe, while millions of others do not, even if exposed to fresh water, including those who swam with victims of the disease”, says the CDC.
Also according to the American health agency, there is no method that accurately measures the number of amoebae in the water.
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