9-year-old Killed By Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba

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brain-eatting-amoebaSTILLWATER, Minn. – Officials suspect a 9-year-old boy who died after swimming in a Minnesota lake was killed by primary amebic meningoencephalitis.

Jack Ariola Erenberg died after experiencing flu-like symptoms for two days after swimming in Lily Lake.

Health officials have closed the lake to swimmers until further notice while the Minnesota Department of Health investigates the death.

The boy’s father, Jim Ariola of Wyoming, Minn., told the St. Paul Pioneer Press his son swam in Lily Lake early to mid-last week, where he frequently swam with his sisters. Ariola says his son was traveling with his mother in Grand Marais when the infection took hold Friday.

Ariola said his son loved hockey and wrestling. He was getting ready to start fourth grade in Stillwater this fall, and was set to start a hockey clinic on Wednesday night.

PAM is caused by an organism known as Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba that is commonly found in warm freshwater and soil across the world. It infects humans by entering through the nose — usually while swimming or diving, and it causes a severe brain infection that is nearly always fatal.

Officials stress that infections are very rare. In fact, the last known case of PAM in Minnesota was reported in August 2010 after a 7-year-old girl named Annie Bahneman died from the same brain infection after swimming in Lily Lake.

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