Texas child dies after contracting brain-eating amoeba, officials say

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A child from Texas died Sept. 11 after contracting a rare but fatal infection from a splash pad in Arlington, the city said in a Sept. 27 news release

Officials from Tarrant County Public Health determined the child contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection caused by the Naegleria fowleri ameba, at Don Misenhimer splash pad after an investigation found employees at the park did not consistently monitor water quality. 

While local health officials were also evaluating whether the child could've been exposed at home, the CDC Sept. 24 confirmed the presence of active N. fowleri ameba in water samples from the splash pad, and from sections of the system that supply water to the facility. The samples were collected between Sept. 10-14. 

Records from the splash pad showed water chlorination readings were not documented on two of the three dates the child visited in late August and early September. 

"Documents show that chlorination levels two days before the child's last visit were within acceptable ranges. However, the next documented reading, which occurred the day after the child visited, shows that the chlorination level had fallen below the minimum requirement and that additional chlorine was added to the water system," the statement said.

The health department was notified Sept. 5 that a child had been hospitalized at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, with the rare infection. The city of Arlington closed all of its splash pads that same day, including Don Misenhimer Park, which will "remain closed until we have assurance that our systems are operating as they should, and we have confirmed a maintenance protocol consistent with city, county, and state standards," said Lemuel Randolph, deputy city manager. 

The city is conducting a "thorough review of splash pad equipment and supplies, maintenance, and water quality inspection policies, procedures and training to ensure safe recreational spaces for residents and visitors," the statement said. 

The N. fowleri ameba typically infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. While infections typically occur when people swim or dive in bodies of freshwater, such as lakes and rivers, in very rare cases, infections may occur when "inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water enters the nose," according to the CDC. 

From 2010-19, 34 N. fowleri infections have been reported to the CDC.

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