By Zachary Roth | The Lookout – Aug. 17, 2011
A parasite known as the "brain-eating amoeba" has claimed its second young American victim this month.
Christian Strickland, a 9-year-old from Henrico County in Virginia contracted an infection after visiting a fishing camp in his state. He died of meningitis on August 5.
This week, health department officials confirmed that the deadly amoeba--officially known as "Naegleria fowleri"--was to blame.
"Sadly, we have had a Naegleria infection in Virginia this summer," Dr. Keri Hall of the Virginia Department of Health, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It's important that people be aware of . . . safe swimming messages."
Earlier this month, Courtney Nash succumbed to the brain-eating amoeba after diving off a dock into the St. John's River at her grandmother's house in Florida.
According to her mother Patricia Nash, Courtney decided before her death to become an organ donor. "I didn't get my miracle, but she has performed other miracles," Patricia told local station WESH. "If we can save other people's lives so they don't have to go through what I just went though, this could be a blessing in disguise."
Usually found in warm, stagnant water in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers, the parasite "enters the nasal passages ... and migrates to the olfactory nerves, eventually invading the brain," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It almost always causes meningitis. Symptoms include fever, nausea, stiff neck and a frontal headache.
Thirty-two infections of the parasite were reported in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010, CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told The Lookout, adding that infections are almost always deadly. That included two children in Phoenix who are thought to have contracted it through the domestic water supply in 2002.