Boy Dies from Apparent Amebic Infection
The City of Stillwater has closed down Lily Lake Beach after a 9-year-old boy died from what appears to be a rare brain amoeba.
The Minnesota Department of Health is now investigating. They say that the cause is apparently amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a very rare form of meningitis caused by an amoeba associated with warm freshwater.
Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said the city was using its National Night Out events to warn neighbors who live around Lily Lake by going door to door and telling them not to swim in the lake.
According to the Minnesota Health Department, the organism is known as Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater and soil. It causes a very rare but severe brain infection and is nearly always fatal. The organism infects people by entering the body through the nose. Generally, this occurs when people use warm freshwater for activities such as swimming and diving.
The Health Department says infections are very rare, even though Naegleria is commonly found in freshwater all over the world. While it can occur anywhere, infection with Naegleria usually occurs in warm southern states in the United States. Forty cases were reported in the United States from 2001 through 2011. The only previously confirmed case of this infection in Minnesota was reported in August of 2010.
Health officials acknowledged that the child had gone swimming at multiple locations in Washington County in the two weeks prior to illness onset, including Lily Lake in Stillwater. The previous Minnesota case's likely source of infection was Lily Lake.
"The risk of infection from Naegleria in Minnesota is very low," said Richard Danila, Assistant State Epidemiologist. "Swimming is a very healthy summertime activity and we do not want to discourage people from swimming. Rather, simply avoid swimming, diving or other activities in obviously stagnant water when temperatures are high and water levels are low," Danila said.
Some additional precautions you can take while swimming during extremely warm periods include keeping your head out of the water, using nose clips or holding the nose shut, and avoid stirring up sediment at the bottom of shallow freshwater areas.
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