Who was David Pruitt? California boy, 7, dies after contracting rare brain-eating parasite at lake

David Pruitt was rushed to the emergency room on and then flown to UC Davis Medical Center where he was on life support with severe brain swelling


                            Who was David Pruitt? California boy, 7, dies after contracting rare brain-eating parasite at lake
David Pruitt died in a hospital after he was infected with an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba (GoFundMe)

In Tehama County, a seven-year-old child called David Pruitt died in a hospital after he was infected with an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba while swimming in a lake. He died on August 7, as per his aunt Crystal Hayley.

As per the Associated Press, the young boy was rushed to the emergency room on July 30 and then flown to UC Davis Medical Center where he was on life support with severe brain swelling. Hayley created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his treatment.

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In the campaign, after the child’s death, she wrote: “We are sad and broken-hearted to report that our sweet little David has passed on. He is now in the loving arms of our Lord and family members who have passed before him. We are rejoicing in knowing he is no longer in pain and in the best of care.” The GoFundMe page has raised more than $19K of its $30K goal.

She further said, “We are still asking any and everyone to donate what you can and to share this information about the amoeba and the PAM illness with as many people as you can. The family is extremely thankful, humbled, and feel so blessed to know people care so deeply for them and have and are still praying for them and have donated what they can to help them during this tragic time.”

What is Naegleria fowleri?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria fowleri is commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba”. It is a free-living microscopic amoeba that can cause a “rare and devastating infection of the brain” called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater like lakes, rivers, and hot springs, and soil.

Naegleria fowleri, per the CDC, usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers.

Computer-generated representation of Naegleria fowleri in its ameboid trophozoite stage, in its flagellated stage, and in its cyst stage (CDC)

The CDC also said that in very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources, such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water, enters the nose. The federal agency however notes that one cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.

As per the Associated Press, there have only been 10 cases reported in California since 1971, citing the Tehama County Health Services Agency. As per the CDC, only 4 people in the US out of 148 have survived infection from 1962 to 2019. When one contracts PAM, the signs and symptoms are “clinically similar” to bacterial meningitis, which lowers the chances of initially diagnosing it correctly. Symptoms usually start between one and nine days after swimming or other nasal exposure to Naegleria-containing water.

As per the CDC, people die between one and 18 days after symptoms begin. The disease progresses rapidly, notes the CDC, so that diagnosis is usually made after death. Symptoms of PAM include severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. In the later stage, patients exhibit stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations, and even coma. The disease is generally fatal.

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