A family has confirmed that a boy from Tehama County has died following contact with an unusual brain-eating amoeba.
7-year-old David Pruitt lost his life last August 7 from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), according to his aunt Crystal Hayley.
Hayley created a fundraising site to help Pruitt’s family’s medical and funeral expenses. She wrote that the boy was brought to the emergency room last July 30 and was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center where he was placed on life support due to serious brain swelling.
In a press release last August 4, the Tehama County Health Services Agency said that only 10 cases of PAM were logged in California since 1971.
The agency said the victim has probably suffered from an infection he got in a lake in Tehama County, which is located in between the Mendocino National Forest and Lassen National Forest. It did not mention the specific lake where he was infected.
Casualties from PAM first suffer from infection caused by the naegleria fowleri amoeba, which is commonly found in lakes or rivers and other bodies of fresh water.
Majority of the infections happen through the nose while people are diving or swimming, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Infected individuals manifest early symptoms like intense headache, fever and nausea, which progresses to seizures, hallucinations and coma as the stage two symptoms.
Diagnosis of PAM could be difficult as it shares the same symptoms with bacterial meningitis. “PAM is difficult to detect because the disease progresses rapidly so that diagnosis is usually made after death,” the CDC said.
Between 1962 to 2019, there had been 148 PAM infections logged in the U.S., with only four survivors, the CDC said.
Children and males mostly made up the cases.
“The extremely low occurrence of PAM makes epidemiologic study difficult. It is unknown why certain persons become infected with the amebae while millions of others exposed to warm recreational fresh waters, including those who were swimming with people who became infected, do not,” the CDC said, as reported by SFGate.
“No method currently exists that accurately and reproducibly measures the numbers of amebae in the water,” it added. “This makes it unclear how a standard might be set to protect human health and how public health officials would measure and enforce such a standard.”