Nevada teen dies after being infected by a rare brain-eating amoeba

  • A Las Vegas boy has died after being infected by a brain-eating amoeba.
  • Authorities say he could have been exposed when he visited Lake Mead.
  • Fatal amoebas can be found in warm, fresh water bodies and enter the brain through the nose.

A Las Vegas teenager has died after being infected by a rare brain-eating amoeba, the Southern Nevada Health District said Wednesday.

The boy, who was under the age of 18, may have been exposed in Lake Mead on the Arizona side of the lake, according to the department.

The amoeba, medically called Naegleria fowleri, infects people by entering the nose and traveling through the brain. The infection destroys brain tissue and causes brain swelling and death.

It cannot infect people if it is ingested, and the infection is not contagious from person to person.

The boy developed symptoms about a week after visiting Lake Mead in early October, the health district said. Initial symptoms include headaches, fever, and nausea, and worsen to include a stiff neck, seizures, and hallucinations.

The infection is extremely rare, according to the department, but is almost always fatal. Between 1962 and 2021, 154 US residents contracted the infection and only four survived.

The largest number of reported cases have been in Texas and Florida, and this is only the second death caused by the amoeba in Nevada, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Epidemiologists have said the report of the boy’s death should not cause panic.

Brian Labus, a former public health epidemiologist, who teaches at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told The Guardian that the brain-eating amoeba “gets people’s attention by name,” but is “very, very rare disease.”

“I wouldn’t say there’s an alarm going off for this,” Labus told the newspaper. “People have to be smart about it when they find themselves in places where this rare amoeba actually lives.”

The Southern Nevada Health District said the amoeba is usually found in warm, fresh water bodies and precautions can be taken to avoid the risk of infection.

These include avoiding jumping into bodies of warm fresh water, keeping your head above water, and avoiding digging or stirring up sediment in warm, shallow fresh water.

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