weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Teen dies from infection by brain-eating amoeba

A Clark County teen has died from a rare brain-eating amoeba that he was probably infected with while in Lake Mead, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

The male may have been exposed to the organism the weekend of Sept. 30 in the Kingman Wash area of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, park officials said in a statement. The teen, whose name and age were not made public, began to develop symptoms about a week later.

“Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in bodies of warm freshwater, such as lakes and rivers, and geothermal water, such as hot springs,” the health district said. “The amoeba infects people by entering the body through the nose and traveling to the brain. It cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person. The infection is extremely rare, and almost always fatal.”

The death rate from such an infection is more than 97 percent, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Only four people have survived out of 154 known infected individuals in the United States from 1962 to 2021.

“My condolences go out to the family of this young man,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer for SNHD. “While I want to reassure the public that this type of infection is an extremely rare occurrence, I know this brings no comfort to his family and friends at this time.”

The CDC notified the district that Naegleria fowleri was confirmed as the cause of the patient’s illness. Infection with the amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection that initially includes headache, fever, nausea or vomiting and progresses to stiff neck, seizures and coma that can lead to death.

Symptoms usually begin about five days after infection but can start within one to 12 days. Once symptoms start, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days.

The amoeba is naturally occurring, and there is no routine test for Naegleria fowleri.

“The National Park Service, working with the NPS Office of Public Health, has made the decision to continue to allow recreational swimming at Lake Mead National Recreation as the organism exists naturally and commonly in the environment but disease is extremely rare,” Dr. Maria Said, U.S. Public Health Service officer, said in the statement. “However, recreational water users should always assume there is a risk anytime they enter warm freshwater.”

Recommended precautions from the CDC include avoiding jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater, especially during the summer; holding your nose shut, using nose clips or keeping your head above water when in bodies of warm freshwater; avoiding putting your head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters; and avoiding digging in or stirring up, the sediment in shallow warm freshwater.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Marv_in_Vegas on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Biden set to visit Vegas to talk drug prices

President Biden will not be designating Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument next week, although he will still be in town to talk about prescription drug prices.

As Lake Mead declines, so do its visitation numbers

A National Park Service spokesman says it is not possible to say why visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area dropped off without further research.

Students witness impact of impaired driving

Shattered lives and limbs can be a consequence of choosing to drive impaired and the “Every 15 Minutes” program aims to bring that home to students and parents in high schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. The latest local iteration of the event took place Feb. 28 and March 1 at Boulder City High School.

Agency seeks power to limit residential water use

While Western states work to hash out a plan to save the crumbling Colorado River system, officials from Southern Nevada are preparing for the worst — including possible water restrictions in the state’s most populous county.

‘A nice sign’: Big Rockies snowpack may boost Lake Mead

When March began the mountains that feed the Colorado River already had seen more snow this winter than they normally would through an entire snow season.

Annual recycling event returns

With a goal to “recycle, repurpose, renew,” the annual Big Clean event will return to Boulder City on March 25.