Stillwater, MN (WXOW) - The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating the death of an elementary school aged child. They suspect primary amebic meningo-encephalitis (PAM).
PAM is a rare form of meningitis caused by an amoeba associated with warm freshwater.
The amoeba enters the body through the nose, usually while swimming or diving, and is nearly always fatal.
It normally happens in warm southern states, but only 40 cases have been reported in the U.S. from 2001 through 2011.
Although it is very rare, you may still want to take precautions.
"Millions of people right now are swimming in lakes, in rivers, and they're having fun because it's summer. Yet we have so few cases of this infection, which is very good, but we don't understand why, when so many people are obviously exposed, why only a few people become deathly ill from this, we don't know," said La Crosse County Public Health Nurse Christine Berth.
If you have the infection, it will start with flu-like symptoms, and as the infection worsens, the symptoms progress to confusion, loss of balance ,and hallucinations.
Berth added that swimming is a very healthy summer activity, but one should avoid swimming or diving in stagnant water, especially when temperatures are high and water levels are low.
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