An Arkansas toddler has died after he was exposed to a rare brain-eating amoeba, or Naegleria fowleri, which he most likely contracted after playing in a splash pad at Little Rock Country Club, according to health officials via CNN.
Although it's very rare for people to contract Naegleria fowleri from chlorinated water found in pools, water parks, and splash pads (it's more often contracted from fresh water lakes and rivers), it can happen when the chlorine levels are too low, according to the CDC. And while there are only around 3 cases per year in the U.S., the death rate is 97%.
The victim died from Naegleria fowleri infection, which "destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and in certain cases, death," the Arkansas Department of Health said in a news release Thursday.
Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that lives in soil and warm freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and hot springs. In rare instances, people have gotten Naegleria fowleri infections from recreational water that had an insufficient amount of chlorine in it, such as pools, splash pads or surf parks, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the Arkansas case, a 16-month-old boy died on September 4 after spending a few days in the hospital, Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs told CNN on Friday.
Multiple samples from the pool and splash pad were sent to the CDC for evaluation, the release said. The CDC found that one splash pad sample had viable Naegleria fowleri and the other samples are still pending.
The Little Rock Country Club has since (at least temporarily) closed its pool and splash pad.