Child dies after contracting brain-eating amoeba at Texas splash pad
ARLINGTON, Texas - An amoeba that lives in sediments at the bottom of lakes and ponds caused the death of a child who likely contracted it while visiting the Don Misenhimer Park splash pad in Arlington, Texas, according to CNN.
A joint news release from the Tarrant County Public Health and the City of Arlington says the child was hospitalized September 5 with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare and often fatal infection caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.
The county health department launched an investigation and narrowed down two possible sources for the exposure to the amoeba- the family's home in Tarrant County and the Don Misenhimer Park splash pad in Arlington.
The city immediately closed that splash pad, and out of an abundance of caution closed the other three public splash pads for the remainder of the year.
The child died September 11.
By September 24 the CDC determined the child was likely exposed to the organism at the splash pad.
The city's drinking water was not contaminated as the splash pad is equipped with a backflow prevention device designed to isolate the facility's water system.
The City of Arlington conducted an investigation into the splash pad's maintenance, equipment and water testing procedures which revealed that the water quality testing data needed improvement and at times employees did not conduct the testing prior to opening the splash pad each day.
Arlington Mayor Jim Ross told CNN affiliate KTVT, "It breaks my heart. I'm a father of four, a grandfather of five kids from 2 to 7 years old. I cannot imagine having to bury a child or a grandchild like that."
In addition to being found in soil and warm fresh water, the amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri can also be found in poorly maintained or unchlorinated pools.
It infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose, according to the CDC. At this point, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue, the CDC says.
Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, the CDC reports that from 2010 to 2019, 34 infections were reported in the United State.
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