Tragedy struck when a 16-month-old toddler in Arkansas succumbed to a rare brain-eating amoeba after being exposed at a Little Rock country club.
The child was playing in the country club’s splash pad when he contracted Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that dwells in water and causes brain inflammation, ultimately leading to tissue destruction and a mortality rate of nearly 100 percent.
The Arkansas Department of Health conducted lab tests confirming the presence of the amoeba in the splash pad. Subsequently, the country club had to close its pool and water playground.
The young boy, identified as Michael Alexander Pollock III, tragically passed away on the evening of September 4 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
This incident marks one of five cases of brain-eating infections reported this year, with the most recent occurring in a Texas resident who died after swimming in an Austin lake.
Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled microorganism that thrives in warm freshwater, such as that found in splash pad water fountains.
When it enters the nose and migrates through the nasal passages, it reaches the brain, where it feeds on brain tissue, resulting in severe neurological damage.
This infection is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The timeline between Michael’s exposure to the amoeba and his death remains unclear, but the infection typically progresses rapidly.
Symptoms of PAM typically appear within one to 12 days after swimming in contaminated water, followed by death approximately five days later.
Initial symptoms resemble those of a virus, including headaches, nausea, fever, and a stiff neck. However, they quickly escalate to severe neurological problems such as seizures, hallucinations, coma, and often fatality.
While PAM cases are generally rare, there have been at least five reported cases in the United States this year, including individuals in Texas, Georgia, Nevada, and Florida who tragically lost their lives after contracting the disease.
The last reported case in Arkansas was in 2013 when a 12-year-old girl named Kali Hardig survived after contracting the infection from a water park.
Naegleria fowleri is a relentless amoeba that consumes brain tissue, and it can be found in warm climates in freshwater, including hot springs and lakes.
Improper water treatment in pools, private ponds, and even tap water can lead to deadly exposure. Once it enters the nose, it has a direct route to the brain, and symptoms usually manifest within one to nine days.
Sadly, those infected typically succumb within five days of symptom onset, making it a swift and deadly disease.
Early-stage symptoms mimic flu-like symptoms, while more advanced stages bring severe neurological issues like seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and coma.