Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fourteen Year Old Arizona Boy Swims In Lake Havasu, Dies Nine Days Later - Of "Brain-Eating Amoeba"

No, this has not become a science fiction blog, although it sounds like the Attack of the Killer Amoebas. However, doctors have verified that a 14-year old Arizona boy who swam in Lake Havasu contracted an amoeba which apparently lives in the water, and which caused the boy's death two weeks later. Full story from The Denver Channel and the Deseret Morning News, supplemeted by other sources listed at the end of this post. Summarized below.

Besides, even we political animals can use an occasional break from the intensity of political discourse.

The Event: On September 8th, 2007 David Evans took his family swimming in Lake Havasu, located along the Colorado (I've been there - charming town with the original London Bridge transported and rebuilt there, but hotter than hell during the summer). Shortly thereafter, his 14-year son Aaron got a headache - which would not go away. Nine days later, on September 17th, Aaron died in his father's arms. Post-mortem tests conducted by his doctor and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicated the presence of Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba which apparently thrives in warm, stagnant, sedimented waters.

The Symptoms: Initially, a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, hallucinations and behavioral changes symptomizing progressive brain damage. Chance of survival near zero; death can occur two weeks later on the average. There is no known cure, although experimental research is promising.

Favored Locations: While most likely naturally-occurring in southern states, the amoeba can be found almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Wading through shallow water and stirring up the bottom stirs up the amoeba. Allowing water to shoot up the nose - by doing a somersault in chest-deep water - can force the amoeba far enough up the nose to allow it to latch onto the olfactory nerve. Then it gains a foothold and begins eating its way up to the brain, feeding on brain cells.

Frequency of Infection: Extremely rare. According to the CDC, the amoeba has killed only 23 people in the United States from 1995 to 2004. This year, health officials noticed a spike with six cases - three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.

Mitigation and Prevention: Use nose plugs when swimming in suspect waters. Keep swimming pools aerated and chorinated.

Click HERE for CDC Fact Sheet.

Click HERE for FDA Snapshot.

Click HERE for fact sheet on signs, symptoms, and treatment.

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