Doctors warn of brain-eating amoeba found in fresh water

PAEDIATRICS are warning about a rare, deadly brain disease in kids contracted by contaminated fresh water.

Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is caused by Naegleria fowleri, a 'brain-eating amoeba' found naturally in untreated fresh water.

According to Queensland Health it can also occur in untreated water piped above ground and can grow in warm, stagnant water such as lakes, hot springs, poorly maintained swimming pools and spas.

The disease is acquired when contaminated fresh water enters the nose and penetrates the central nervous system, the Medical Journal of Australia reports.

It causes inflammation and destruction of the brain and is usually fatal., Queensland Health says.

The call follows the death of a 12-month-old boy from PAM in Queensland last year.

The MJA reports the boy, from a West Queensland cattle-farming area, presented to a rural hospital with a persistent high fever, mottled skin, rash and seizures. 

He was transferred to Townsville Hospital after being treated with intravenous antibiotics for presumed bacterial meningitis and later died.

When reviewing the toddler's history, it was noted he lived on a property that used untreated and unfiltered bore water domestically.

Townville Hospital's first case of PAM was an 18-month-old girl also from a rural location in North Queensland who presented with similar symptoms and died 72 hours later.

The girl had an older sibling who died several years earlier from suspected PAM.

Queensland Health say children and young adults appear to be more susceptible to the infection, although it can occur at any age.

Signs and symptoms include a high fever, stiff neck, sleepiness, severe/persistent headache, sore throat, confusion/hallucinations, nausea and vomiting and seizures.

These usually develop within three to seven days of infection.

Doctors are warning people to avoid jumping, diving or squirting untreated water.

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