Boy dies from extremely rare brain-eating amoeba after swim in California lake


A Tehama County boy has died after he came in contact with an extraordinarily rare brain-eating amoeba, his family confirmed.

David Pruitt, 7, died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, on August 7, said his aunt, Crystal Hayley.

The boy ran to the emergency room on July 30 and then flew to UC Davis Medical Center where he was on life support with severe brain swelling, Hayley said in a fundraising site it was created for the family to raise money for her care and funeral.

There are only 10 PAM cases reported in California since 1971, Tehama County Health Services Agency said in a Aug. 4 news release. He said the boy was likely infected in a lake in Tehama County but did not specify which lake. Tehama County sits between Mendocino National Forest and Lassen National Forest, and its largest community is Red Bluff.

The dead in PAM are first infected with the naegleria fowleri amoeba, usually found in freshwater bodies such as lakes or rivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most infections occur in the nose while people are swimming or diving.

Early symptoms includes severe headache, fever and nausea, progressing to stages of symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations and coma. The symptoms are similar to bacterial meningitis, one of the reasons the diagnosis can be difficult. “PAM is difficult to detect because the disease progresses rapidly so that the diagnosis is usually made after death,” the CDC notes. Data from the agency show 148 WFP infections were recorded in the United States between 1962 and 2019; only four people survived. The majority of cases were in men and children.

Using direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) staining techniques, this photomicrograph describes histopathological features associated with a case of amoebic meningencephalitis due to parasite Naegleria fowleri.  Image courtesy CDC / Dr.  Govinda S. Visvesvara

Using direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) staining techniques, this photomicrograph describes histopathological features associated with a case of amoebic meningencephalitis due to parasite Naegleria fowleri. Image courtesy CDC / Dr. Govinda S. Visvesvara

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

“The very low incidence of PAM makes epidemiological studies difficult. It is unknown why certain people become infected with the amebae while millions of others are exposed to fresh recreational fresh water, including those who swam and those who became infected, don’t, ”says the CDC.

“No method currently exists that accurately and reproducibly measures the amount of amoeba in the water,” he continues. “This makes it clear how a standard could be set to protect human health and how public health officials would measure and enforce such a standard.”

A GoFundMe for the Pruitt family has raised nearly $ 20,000 from its $ 30,000 goal.

Hayley writes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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