Brain-Eating Amoeba Takes Life of Beloved Toddler: Water Play Area to Blame

A 16-month-old boy from Little Rock died from a brain-eating amoeba infection, likely contracted at a splash pad in Arkansas.

Brain-Eating Amoeba

In a heartbreaking incident, a 16-month-old boy named Michael Alexander Pollock III from Little Rock lost his life to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare and deadly infection caused by the brain-eating amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri. 

The Pulaski County coroner confirmed this tragic death and warned of the severe consequences of exposure to this amoeba.

The Arkansas Department of Health, while not disclosing the individual’s name, issued a statement acknowledging the loss of an Arkansas resident due to the amoeba infection, which is also referred to as Naegleria fowleri. 

Splash Pad

According to their news release, it is likely that the individual contracted the infection while playing in a splash pad at the Country Club of Little Rock.

Coroner Gerone Hobbs sadly reported that young Michael passed away on the evening of September 4th at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. 

His obituary, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 6th, described Michael as someone who, despite his brief time on Earth, managed to touch the hearts of family, friends, and even strangers with his illuminating smile and playful nature.

Samples Confirmed Contamination

Following this tragic incident, the Health Department promptly sent samples from the pool and splash pad to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further investigation. 

The CDC confirmed the presence of traces of Naegleria fowleri in one of the samples from the splash pad.

However, the agency is still awaiting results from the remaining samples to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Relatively Common

While the CDC emphasizes that Naegleria fowleri is a relatively common amoeba found in warm, low-level freshwater bodies such as rivers, lakes, and streams, it rarely infects humans. 

The amoeba typically resides at the bottom of these water bodies, often in the sediment. 

To infect a person, it must be inhaled through the nose and make its way to the brain.

Importantly, individuals cannot become infected by ingesting water contaminated with the amoeba, according to the Health Department. 

Almost Unsurvivable

Despite its rarity, Naegleria fowleri infections are exceptionally dangerous, with a death rate of 97%, according to the CDC.

This tragic incident tragically highlights the deadly potential of the amoeba, and it serves as a somber reminder that such infections can have devastating consequences. 

The last known case of a person infected with Naegleria fowleri in Arkansas was in July 2013 when 12-year-old Kali Hardig of Benton contracted the amoeba after visiting Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock. 

Remarkably, Kali survived, but the water park ceased operations following the incident.

Infection Begin With Headache, Fever, and Nausea

The CDC says that most cases of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) occur during the summer months, and historically, 11 states, primarily in the South and Southwest, have reported four or more cases of PAM. 

Arkansas has had six reported cases over the past decades, according to CDC statistics.

Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection usually begin with a severe headache, fever, and nausea, later progressing to a stiff neck, seizures, and potentially a coma, ultimately resulting in death. 

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Source: Arkansas Online