RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A child who died last week had developed an illness caused by a rare brain-eating amoeba they contracted while swimming in a pond in central North Carolina, the state health department said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the child’s illness was caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba found in freshwater. It can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during jumping into water, diving, water-skiing or other water activities.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services did not specify where the pond was located just that it was on the child’s family’s property in the central part of the state.
“Our heart-felt condolences and sympathies are with the family and friends of this child,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D. “Although these infections are very rare, this is an important reminder that this amoeba is present in North Carolina and that there are actions people can take to reduce their risk of infection when swimming in the summer.”
NCDHHS said symptoms of naegleria fowleri infection start with severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and progress to stiff neck, seizures and coma and can lead to death.
These rare infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Naegleria fowleri grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F.