A California boy who was on life support after he contracted a brain-eating amoeba likely while swimming in a lake has died, his family recently told news outlets. David Pruitt, 7, had been flown to UC Davis Medical Center on July 30, according to the family’s fundraising page.
About a week later, the boy died. His aunt, Crystal Hayley, said he was diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rare, devastating infection of the brain. The Associated Press reported that earlier this month, health officials in Tehama County said that a child under 10 was likely infected in a Tehama County lake, but did not reveal exactly where or the child’s age.
According to the Tehama County Health Services Agency, there have only been 10 PAM cases reported in California since 1971.
PAM is caused by Naegleria fowleri, also known as a brain-eating amoeba, which is found in warm freshwater and soil. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose, and travels to the brain where it causes PAM. Usually, most PAM cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It was not clear exactly when David had gone swimming, as symptoms of PAM typically begin one to nine days after. Death typically occurs between one and 18 days after symptoms begin. The CDC notes that PAM is difficult to detect due to rapid progression of illness.