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from The New York Times

Amoeba Infects, Kills Boy in Fla.

Saturday, August 8, 1998

(Filed at 1:22 p.m. EDT)

By The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A 14-year-old boy was killed by a one-celled organism thought to live in every lake and stream in Florida.

Richard Davis died Friday at Florida Hospital after an amoeba crawled up his nasal passages and infected his brain.

Although he contracted the infection while swimming with friends in an old drainage canal in Orange County on July 26, no one else was infected.

``We don't know why some people are affected and some aren't,'' said county epidemiologist Bill Toth.

The disease usually is fatal, Toth said. Richard was treated unsuccessfully with antibiotics and anti-viral medicines.

Officials think the amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, is found in all American freshwater lakes and streams, The Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday.

The amoeba usually lies harmlessly in water beds until the sediment is disturbed. It can be forced up the nose of someone who jumps or falls into the water.

It travels up the nasal passages to the brain, where it eats and reproduces, causing swelling and death.

According to the Orange County Health Department, there is about one case of the disease -- amebic meningoencephalitis -- for every 2.5 million hours people spend in fresh water in Florida.

Orange County records show four deaths from the disease since 1963. The last case was 15 years ago when two sisters were jumping from a dock into a lake. One was killed. The other was never sick.

The disease can be prevented by wearing nose clips when water skiing, swimming near the bottom or jumping into water. The amoeba also is killed by chlorine.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

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