Health officials said that lab tests have confirmed that a Sumter County boy died from a rare infection of the brain caused by an organism that lives in warm freshwater Thursday.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Templeton said the child was exposed to the deadly organism Naegleria fowleri, which is a water-born ameba.
DHEX epidemiologist Kathleen Antonetti said that people should seek immediate medical attention after swimming in freshwater if they experience headache, nausea, vomiting, high fever and neck stiffness. Its severity increases very quickly, resulting in death within one to 12 days.
"While this organism is present in many warm water lakes, rivers and streams in the South, infection in humans is extremely rare," said Templeton. "Naegleria fowleri almost always results in death."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of Naegleria fowleri infections have been caused by exposure in freshwater located in southern states. Naegleria is an ameba commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, and only one fowleri species infects people.
Typically the ameba can be found in bodies of warm freshwater, geothermal water, warm water discharge from industrial plants, geothermal drinking water sources, soil, swimming pools that are poorly maintained and water heaters with temperatures less than 116 degrees Fahrenheit.
CDC said that there were only 32 documented cases of this kind of infection between 2001 and 2010. DHEC advises people not to swim in fresh water when water levels are low.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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