(CNN) – The fatal brain-eating amoeba has struck once again, this time claiming the life of a 14-year-old star athlete.
Michael John Riley Jr. was just days away from starting his freshman year of high school. The Houston teen, who qualified for the Junior Olympics three times in track, was swimming in with his cross-country team on August 13 at Sam Houston State Park.
That’s when Michael encountered the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. Within days, the teen’s bad headache turned into a total loss of brain function. He died Sunday.
While infections from Naegleria fowleri are rare, they’re usually fatal. Here’s what to know about the brain-eating parasite:
Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that can cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
It’s typically found in warm fresh water such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.
“These disease-causing organisms are naturally present in most lakes, ponds, and rivers but multiply rapidly in very warm and stagnant water,” the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.
People can get infected by swimming or diving into infected, warm bodies of water, the CDC said. The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain.
In extremely rare cases, swimmers can get infected from pools that are not adequately chlorinated.
But it’s impossible to get infected by drinking water contaminated with the amoeba. And infections are not contagious.
Very rarely. In the past 53 years, only about 133 cases have been documented, according to the CDC.
Most of those cases happened in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona and California.
Very often. Of those 133 cases, only three people survived.
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