Brain eating amoeba: The recent string of deaths attributed to a rare but deadly brain-eating amoeba is back in the headlines, after a 4-year-old Mississippi boy contracted the parasite while visiting a home in Louisiana, reports CNN on Sept. 7.
According to state health officials, the young boy was visiting the Violet, La. area a little over a month ago when he fell ill. Officials traced the boy’s activity back to a long day of playing with a muddy slip-n-slide toy.
“They suspected that this is the result of the kids playing on the slip and slide for a long period of time and running in and out of the mud and onto the slip and slide. The parasite was transmitted through the nasal passages into the brain,” St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta said.
The infection is caused by a rare amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, a unicellular microorganism found in bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers and hot springs.
N. fowleri, which enters through the nasal cavity, can invade and attack the human nervous system, and although rare, once infected, the case fatality rate is 98 percent. Only 123 reported cases of the amoeba have been reported since 1962. Just three have survived.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals tested water from the home where the young boy was visiting. Those samples confirmed the presence of the amoeba.
“Out of what officials describe as ‘an abundance of caution,’ St. Bernard Parish on Thursday began treating its water system with additional chlorine and flushing any potentially contaminated water from its lines. This treatment may result in changes in the smell, taste and color of the local water, the health department said, but it is still safe to drink,” reports ABC affiliate KETV 7.
The news of this recent death comes just weeks after a 12-year-old boy, Zachary Reyna from Florida, was infected with the amoeba. Reyna died on August 25, just a few weeks after contracting the virus. Doctors had been using an experimental drug on Zachary, the same drug that saved an Arkansas girl who also had the rare amoeba infection.