Nebraska child dies from suspected brain-eating amoeba

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A Nebraska child has died from a rare brain-eating amoeba.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services did not identify the young victim, but said the death would be the first case of the brain-eating amoeba killing someone in state history, if the cause is confirmed. The child likely picked up the amoeba while swimming in the Elkhorn River, the department said. The child began experiencing symptoms five days after being exposed and died Wednesday, FOX 42 in Omaha reported.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals and ponds across the United States,” the department said in a press release. “It can cause meningo -primary amoebic encephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that can occur when water containing the amoeba rushes through the nose and reaches the brain. The infection is extremely rare, but almost always fatal.”

Naegleria fowleri (commonly known as “brain-eating amoeba” or “brain-eating amoeba”) is a free-living microscopic amoeba* (single-celled living organism). It can cause a rare** and devastating brain infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAD).
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))


Although millions of people bathe in rivers, lakes and ponds, the risks of being exposed to Naegleria fowleri is extremely rare, said Nebraska state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue. There are usually no more than eight cases identified each year, and they usually occur later in the summer when the water is warmer and slower moving.

Donahue said cases, historically, were more common in southern states; however, they have been more common farther north in recent years.

The amoeba is most commonly found in rivers, lakes and ponds.

The amoeba is most commonly found in rivers, lakes and ponds.
(Jim Lane/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Besides the rare cases of coming into contact with the amoeba, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that states take the time to test untreated rivers and lakes, “because the amoeba is of natural and that there is no established relationship between the detection or a concentration of Naegleria fowleri and the risk of infection,” according to the press release.


Brain-eating amoebas are rare in the United States, according to the CDC. Over the past 10 years, the CDC has recorded 31 infections. Although rare, the chances of survival after coming into contact with a brain-eating amoeba are slim. The death rate is 97%, according to the CDC, and only four of 154 people infected between 1962 and 2021 have survived.

Fox News Digital contacted Nebraska DHHS.


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