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Health district: Brain-eating amoeba from Lake Mead kills boy

Lake Mead
Lake Mead

A juvenile died from a brain-eating amoeba this month, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. It's suspected he was exposed on the Arizona side of Lake Mead at the beginning of October.

His symptoms started about a week later, but it wasn't immediately clear when he died. An exact age, as well as the boy's identity, was not released.

Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers and geothermal hot springs. The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain, but can not infect people if swallowed. According to the health district, infection is rare but "almost always fatal."

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“My condolences go out to the family of this young man,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer, in a written media statement. “While I want to reassure the public that this type of infection is an extremely rare occurrence, I know this brings no comfort to his family and friends at this time.”

Infection of amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), the health district said. The brain infection results in headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and progresses to stiff neck, seizures, coma and death.

For more information about the amoeba, visit the CDC's website

The health district gave recommendations to avoid exposure:

  • Avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater, especially during the summer
  • Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when in bodies of warm fresh water
  • Avoid putting your head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment in shallow warm fresh water


Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She curates content on, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.