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US boy dies from rare brain eating bug after swimming in lake

An eight-year-old US boy from South Carolina has died from a rare illness, after contracting a brain eating bug which can be picked up by swimming in warm water.

Legionnaires Dirty Water

The US Department of Health and Environmental Control said the boy had been exposed to the deadly organism Naegleria fowleri while swimming.

The director of DHEC Catherine Templeton said that contact with the organism is almost always fatal.

“While this organism is present in many warm water lakes, rivers and streams in the South, infection in humans is extremely rare,” said Ms Templeton.

The boy died from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which mimics the symptoms of bacterial meningitis, meaning victims may not even be tested for the infection. The child developed a headache and fever after a visit to the beach and his parents took him to hospital when he became lethargic.

After he died an autopsy revealed that the infection was most likely caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which must have entered his system before he visited the beach and most likely after he went tubing on a lake the family visited.

Every stretch of fresh water is likely to contain the amoeba, but it only becomes a threat when it enters the human body through the nose and travels up to the brain to destroy brain tissue.

The DHEC has warned swimmers not to swim or dive into stretches of water when it is warm and water levels are low.

Health officials are warning other swimmers who develop symptoms such as a stiff neck, headache, nausea and vomiting to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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Dated: 23/07/2012

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