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Arkansas baby dies from rare brain-eating amoeba

Health officials believe the 16-month-old child may have contracted the rare infection from a country club splash pad.
Arkansas baby dies from rare brain-eating amoeba
Posted at 11:38 AM, Sep 18, 2023

A young child in Arkansas has died after being infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba that health officials believe was likely contracted from a splash pad at a country club.

Michael Alexander Pollock III, who was just 16 months old, passed away on Sept. 4 while his parents were out of state, Arkansas Online reported. In the young child's obituary, his parents wrote that Michael "touched the hearts of family, friends, and strangers" with his "illuminating smile and playfulness."

The Arkansas Department of Health announced the death was caused by a Naegleria fowleri, a rare single-celled organism that's typically found in warm freshwater environments, such as lakes, rivers, ponds and hot springs. However, it can also be found in pools and splash pads that are not properly maintained or cleaned.

"The CDC has reported one splash pad sample as confirmed to have viable Naegleria fowleri. The remaining samples are still pending," the Arkansas Department of Health said in a press release. "The department has been in contact with the Country Club of Little Rock, and they have been cooperative in inquiries with the ADH."

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Naegleria fowleri typically infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose, according to the CDC. This can occur when people are swimming, diving, or putting their heads under water. 

The Arkansas Department of Health said there is no ongoing risk to the public, but the country club has voluntarily closed its pool and splash pad areas. The last case of this brain-eating amoeba in Arkansas was back in 2013. 

While cases like this are extremely rare, a Nevada child also died earlier this year after contracting the brain-eating amoeba during a visit to Ash Springs, which is located about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. The CDC reports that there have only been about 160 documented cases of the infection in the U.S. since 1962, but the cases are almost always fatal — with only four infected people known to have survived.

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