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Nebraska child dies due to brain-eating amoeba infection after swimming in Elkhorn River

Infection from brain-eating amoeba or Naegleria fowleri is incredibly rare but it is highly deadly, killing around 97% of people who are infected
UPDATED AUG 19, 2022
Representative Image (CDC/Getty Images)
Representative Image (CDC/Getty Images)

DOUGLAS COUNTY, NEBRASKA: A child's death in Nebraska has been linked to an infection caused by a rare brain-eating amoeba. According to local health officials, the child could have contracted the same while swimming in a Nebraska river.

The victim's age is yet to be confirmed by the officials. The child reportedly fell ill and died this week. According to the Douglas County Health Department, the incident happened after swimming in Nebraska's Elkhorn River on Sunday, August 14.


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The Elkhorn River in Antelope County, Nebraska (Wikipedia)
The Elkhorn River in Antelope County, Nebraska (Wikipedia)

Officials also stated that he died in Douglas County. If this is confirmed, It would be the Cornhusker's state first recorded case of brain-eating amoeba infection. Brain-eating amoeba infections are one of the deadliest viruses. They are confirmed rare, but the victim's life is in danger if infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 157 cases of brain-eating amoeba from 1962 to 2022. Only four Americans have ever survived the infection. If confirmed, it will be the third confirmed case and the second death in the country linked to a brain-eating amoeba.

In a report by ABC, the Douglas County health director, Dr Lindsay Huse, said in a statement,  "We can only imagine the devastation this family must be feeling, and our deepest condolences are with them, we can honor the memory of this child by becoming educated about the risk and then taking steps to prevent infection". Naegleria fowleri, also known as the brain-eating amoeba, is a rare but deadly amoeba that lives in warm freshwater bodies. It includes lakes, ponds, rivers, and hot springs. Experts also warn that these beings are highly active during summer when the temperature begins to warm.

Other cases of brain-eating amoeba in the US

The single-celled organism can infect people when water containing the amoeba reaches the nose and then move to the brain. It usually happens while swimming or diving. People do not become infected from drinking contaminated water or swimming in a properly chlorinated pool. However, infection from the amoeba is incredibly rare but is highly deadly killing around 97% of people who are infected, reported DailyMail.

There were two other cases reported earlier this year. On July 6, a Missouri man was infected by this amoeba after swimming in the Lake of Three Fires in southwestern Iowa. He later succumbed to death on July 18. Later, a second case was reported in Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida. He was infected after swimming in a river near his home. However, Ziegelbauer survived the attack. The 13-year-old is still in the hospital struggling to recover his health.