7-Year-Old Dies from Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Contracted in Northern California Lake

David Pruitt, 7, died following the contraction of a rare brain-eating amoeba in a Tehama County lake.

A 7-year-old Tehama County boy has died following the contraction of a rare brain-eating amoeba in a Northern California lake.

David Pruitt was flown to UC Davis Medical Center with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, on July 30. He died from the infection on August 7. A GoFundMe has been created for the Pruitt family to help with costs accrued during their difficult time.

According to the Tehama County Health Services Agency, only 10 cases of PAM have been reported in California since 1971. Health officials said the boy was likely to have contracted the infection in a Tehama lake, but did not indicate which one.

The most common deaths of PAM come from infections of the naegleria fowleri amoeba in fresh bodies of water like lakes or rivers. The infections typically occur through the nose while swimming or diving. Symptoms of PAM include severe headache, fever and nausea, progressing to stage two symptoms like seizures, hallucinations and coma. The symptoms typically take place so quickly that it’s typically not diagnosed until after death.

While this sort of disease can be cause for concern among NorCal locals, there’s not a whole lot we can do to prevent infections.

“The extremely low occurrence of PAM makes epidemiologic study difficult,” states the CDC. “It is unknown why certain persons become infected with the amebae while millions of others exposed to warm recreational fresh waters, including those who were swimming with people who became infected, do not. No method currently exists that accurately and reproducibly measures the numbers of amebae in the water. “This makes it unclear how a standard might be set to protect human health and how public health officials would measure and enforce such a standard.”

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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