A child likely died of a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a river, health officials in the United States said.

The baby, who was not named by officials, went swimming in the Elkhorn River in eastern Nebraska on August 8 and developed symptoms about five days later.

The baby was in hospital within 48 hours of symptom onset and died 10 days later, according to the Douglas County Health Department.

Health officials said at a news conference Thursday that doctors believe the baby died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a usually fatal infection caused by naegleria fowleri, often referred to as a brain-eating amoeba.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are conducting tests to confirm the cause of the infection, said Dr. Lindsay Huse, director of the Douglas County Health Department.

If confirmed, this would be the first death of naegleria fowleri in Nebraska history, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said.

“We can only imagine the devastation the family must feel and our deepest condolences are with them,” Dr. Huse said in a statement.

“We can honor the child’s memory by educating ourselves about risk and then taking steps to prevent infection.”

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that lives in the soil and in warm fresh waters, such as lakes, rivers and thermal springs.

It is commonly called the brain-eating amoeba because it can cause a brain infection when water containing the amoeba rises in the nose.

Infections are extremely rare, but those who are infected usually die, according to the CDC.

There were 154 primary amoebic meningoencephalitis infections in the United States in the nearly six decades from 1962 to 2021, and only four people survived.

Amoeba has been found more and more in the northern states in recent years as air and water temperatures rise.

Dr. Huse recommended that people wear nose plugs when swimming in warm, cool waters.

“Right now, we are simply urging the public to be aware and take precautions when exposed to hot, fresh water sources,” he said.

A person cannot get the infection from swallowing water.

A Missouri resident died in July after likely ingesting the amoeba in a lake in southwestern Iowa.

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