One-year-old boy dies from water contaminated with brain-eating amoeba

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An Arkansas toddler, Michael Alexander Pollock III, has died after being infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba after being exposed in a Little Rock country club.

The 16-month-old boy was playing at the country club’s splash pad when he was infected with Naegleria fowleri, a water-dwelling amoeba that causes inflammation in the brain and destroys tissue, killing nearly 100 percent of its victims, The PUNCH learnt.

The incident was confirmed by the Arkansas Department of Health through lab testing.

The health department said that the splash pad where the young boy and many other children were playing contained traces of the offending amoeba, adding that it has forced the exclusive club to shut down its pool and water playground.

The state coroner said Pollock III died the evening of September 4 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

He is believed to be one of five victims of the brain-eating infection this year, the most recent being a Texas resident who died after swimming in an Austin lake.

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled microorganism that lives in warm freshwater, the type that spurts out of water fountains on splash pads.

When the parasite gets into the nose and travels through the nasal passages, it reaches the brain where it feeds on brain tissue, leading to severe neurological damage. The infection is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

It is not clear how much time elapsed between Michael’s exposure to the brain-wasting organism and his death, though the infection typically progresses quickly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms come on between one and 12 days after swimming in contaminated water, and death typically follows about five days later.

Symptoms resemble a virus at first, including headache, nausea, fever, and stiff neck. But they quickly progress to more severe neurological issues including seizures, hallucinations, coma, and often death.

157 cases of PAM were confirmed from 1962 to 2022, but only four people survived.

The Arkansas Department of Health, which sent water samples to the CDC for testing, said, ‘The CDC has reported one splash pad sample as confirmed to have viable Naegleria fowleri. The remaining samples are still pending. The department has been in contact with the Country Club of Little Rock, and they have been cooperative in inquiries with the ADH.”

While generally very rare, there are believed to have been at least five other casualties in the US this year, the others being a person in Texas, a resident in Georgia, a two-year-old boy in Nevada, a man in Florida all died after contracting the disease.

The last case reported in Arkansas was in 2013 when a 12-year-old girl named Kali Hardig contracted the infection from a water park, and survived.

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