The child, a resident of Douglas County, which includes the city of Omaha, may have contracted the infection while swimming in Nebraska’s Elkhorn River on Sunday. The child became ill soon after and died this week, according to the Douglas County Health Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting further testing to confirm.
“We can only imagine the devastation this family must be feeling, and our deepest condolences are with them,” the Douglas County health director, Dr. Lindsay Huse, said in a statement Wednesday. “We can honor the memory of this child by becoming educated about the risk and then taking steps to prevent infection.”
Naegleria fowleri is a rare but deadly amoeba that lives in warm freshwater, such as lakes, ponds, rivers and hot springs. The single-celled organism can infect people when water containing the amoeba travels up the nose and reaches the brain, usually while swimming or diving. People do not become infected from drinking contaminated water or swimming in a pool that is properly chlorinated, according to the CDC.