Waterborne illness claims life of Bryan county boy

By  | 

BRYAN COUNTY, OK -- Health officials have confirmed that a Bryan county boy died Tuesday of a rare meningitis he got while swimming in the Red River.

All bodies of fresh water contain neglaria amoeba, a deadly parasite that enters through the nose and attacks the brain.

That's what happened to a nine-year-old Bryan county boy.

"Unfortuantely the child died today. The child had been swimming in the river and exhibited symptoms that were in alignment with PAM," Oklahoma Department of Health representative, Leslie Bennett-Webb said.

PAM, short for Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, is a rare menigitis that acts fast.

"It can, within hours or days, it can kill the person who has contacted it," infectious disease Doctor Minaxi Rathod said.

Doctor Rathod with Texas Health Presbyterian-WNJ, says she has never seen a case, but explained that the amoeba is always in lakes, rivers and other stagnant water.

Once it finds a way into our bodies, there usually is not a way to get rid of it.

"The parasite enters through your nostrils through the water. And then through the nostrils, if at all there is any break into your brain or through the nostirls it can enter into the brain and then it can cause what we call meningitis," Dr. Rathod said.

"You definitely want to avoid jumping, diving, or dunking your head into bodies of fresh, really warm water so that water doesn't enter your nose or mouth," Bennett-Webb said.

While those are good tips, Dr. Rathod says there is only one way to be completely certain you won't fall victim to the disease.

"People need to think twice about swimming in those stagnant pools and stagnant water," Dr. Rathod said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it's important swimmers be aware of the danger.

"We just want folks to understand that as we get, as we continue with heat and drought conditions in the state, this is another thing to worry about. And we just want people to be aware that while water can cool you off, it can also cause illness and even death," Bennett-Webb said.

Symptoms of PAM include headaches, confusion and seizures.

BJ Parkey with the Army Corp of Engineers says they will be working with the Oklahoma Department of Health to become more educated about PAM, and the Corp will ensure people across Texoma are educated.