A child in Northern California has developed a rare and deadly brain infection after swimming in a freshwater lake, according to health officials.
The child, who is younger than 10 years old and lives in Tehama County, was diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a devastating brain infection, Tehama County Health Services Agency said in a statement released on Aug. 4. The infection is caused by Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba that is found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.
The child most likely acquired the infection from swimming in a freshwater lake in Tehama County, according to the statement, which did not specify the lake where the child went swimming.
The condition is “extremely rare” with only 10 cases reported in California since 1971, according to the statement.
People become infected with Naegleria fowleri when water contaminated with the amoeba goes up their nose. From there, the organism can enter the brain and destroy brain tissue. Infections are almost universally fatal, with less than a 3% survival rate, Live Science previously reported. (It’s unclear exactly why some people are able to survive the condition, but factors that may contribute to survival include early detection of the infection and treatment with an experimental drug called miltefosine, along with other aggressive treatments to reduce brain swelling, Live Science previously reported.) Swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria fowleri will not cause an infection.
The only way to prevent Naegleria fowleri infection is to avoid swimming in bodies of freshwater, the statement said. If people do swim in freshwater, they can reduce their risk by not putting their head underwater, or using nose clips to prevent water from going up their nose.
Health officials did not provide further details on the child’s condition.
Originally published on Live Science.