• A Nevada minor has died from a Naegleria fowleri infection, health officials said Wednesday.
  • Infections of Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoeba, are very rare – but almost always fatal.
  • Naegleria fowleri causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a serious brain infection.

A Nevada minor has died from an infection of Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as brain-eating amoeba, local health officials said. 

In a Wednesday news release, the Southern Nevada Health District said its  investigation shows the individual may have been exposed to the amoeba on the Arizona side of Lake Mead in early October. He began to develop symptoms about one week later.

The Southern Nevada Health District did not identify the minor by name, but confirmed that the patient was male, under 18 and a resident of Nevada’s Clark County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Naegleria fowleri was the cause of the patient’s illness, the Southern Nevada Health District said.

“My condolences go out to the family of this young man,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, the district’s district health officer, said in a 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.”

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USA TODAY reached out to the National Park Service for comment from Lake Mead officials Thursday.

What is Naegleria fowleri, or brain-eating amoeba?

According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri is “a free-living” amoeba that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a serious brain infection and disease of the central nervous system.

A brain-eating amoeba infection is “extremely rare, and almost always fatal,” the Southern Nevada Health District notes.

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There have been 154 known PAM infections caused by Naegleria fowleri in the U.S. between 1962 and 2021, according to CDC. Only four of the infected survived.

Brain-eating amoeba infection symptoms

Naegleria fowleri infection symptoms can start with fever, nausea and headaches, according to the CDC. That may progress to stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations and coma.