LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On Thursday, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) announced that an Arkansan died from a rare infection, which targets the brain tissue.
The ADH explained that the person died from Naegleria fowleri, which causes brain swelling and can be deadly as it destroys brain tissue.
The Pulaski County Coroner later identified the person who died as a one-year-old baby.
Pediatrician Dr. Josh Lyon explained that Naegleria fowleri is a small amoeba that lives in freshwater.
"You're not seeing it in chlorinated pools, you're not seeing it in distilled water. You are seeing it in lakes, which we've seen in Arkansas before. You're seeing it in untreated unfiltered water, unfortunately," said Dr. Lyon.
Dr. Lyon also explained how it can cause a lot of harm quickly.
“It gets into your nose, and from there can travel along the nerves into your brain and spinal cord. So, it's actually just causing very active inflammation inside the brain,” he added.
According to Dr, Lyon, symptoms can be fevers, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision, and personality changes.
“Symptoms show within the first seven days, within the first week. But within the first two weeks, most of the time going to be fatal, unfortunately,” he said.
Following an investigation by ADH, it was determined that the person was likely exposed to the infection at the Country Club of Little Rock splash pad.
“Bodies of water that sit for long periods of time, and it's always warm bodies of water, which is why we think of the lakes and then splash pads and that kind of stuff more classically,” said Dr. Lyon.
According to Dr. Lyon, this is something that we don't see often.
“We have maybe three cases a year across the U.S. and you know, maybe every five or 10 years, we see one here in Arkansas,” said Dr. Lyon
This was the same brain-eating amoeba that infected a 12-year-old named Kali Harding in 2013.
She managed to beat it, which made her one of four people in the United States documented as having survived the infection.
“You'll see this more often in your younger kids because they're the ones who are doing more of the risk-taking behaviors, they're more of the ones who have the opportunity for that water to more forcefully move its way up through the nares,” said Dr. Lyon.
While summer is practically over, if you do find yourself spending time where there is water, Dr. Lyon said there are precautions you can take.
“If families are overly concerned about this, something as small as just plugging the nose makes an enormous difference,” said Dr. Lyon.
The Country Club of Little Rock has since closed its pool and splash pad and both currently remain closed.