7-Year-Old California Boy Dies After Contracting Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba While Swimming in Lake

David Pruitt, 7, died from a rare brain-eating amoeba.

The brain-eating amoeba is very rare, and only 10 cases have been reported in California since 1971, the Tehama County Health Services Agency said.

A 7-year-old boy has died from a rare brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a Northern California lake. 

David Pruitt of Tehama County, California, was rushed to the emergency room on July 30 and then flown to UC Davis Medical Center where he was put on life support for severe brain swelling. A week later, on Aug. 7, Pruitt died.

“We are sad and broken-hearted to report, that our sweet little David has passed on. He is now in the loving arms of our Lord and family members who have passed before him. We are rejoicing in knowing he is no longer in pain and in the best of care,” said Pruitt’s aunt Crystal Hayley on a GoFundMe page created to help the family.

Pruitt contracted “primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)," Hayley said on the fundraising page.

The brain-eating amoeba is very rare. Only 10 cases have been reported in California since 1971, according to a press release by the Tehama County Health Services Agency.

Public health officials said the boy was likely infected in a lake,  the Associated Press reported

The parasite Pruitt was most likely exposed to was Naegleria fowleri, which usually infects people when contaminated water enters their body through the nose. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Naegleria is an ameba, single-celled living organism, commonly that is found in warm freshwater, for example, when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs.

The CDC said only one species-type of Naegleria infects people and that is Naegleria fowleri. 

In rare instances, people can get infected if warm water from a disinfected swimming pool that has not been adequately treated with chlorine enters the nose, their website said.

“Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal,” the CDC said. 

Symptoms of PAM may include a severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. As the infection worsens, those infected can develop a stiff neck and experience seizures or hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days, the CDC said. 

David's family has encouraged people to visit "Kyle Cares Amoeba Awareness" to learn more about PAM in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.

"Kyle Cares Amoeba Awareness Foundation was created 11 years ago by the parents of Kyle, who contract the same amoeba as my nephew David," Hayley wrote on GoFundMe. "This may seem too rare to ever happen to you, but what is rare is having the doctors check for it in the first place. Parents, family members, and adults need to know the signs and speak up, demand the doctors listen, and advocate for whom ever may possibly have contracted this amoeba."

As of Tuesday, about $23,000 had been raised towards their goal of $30,000.

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