Arkansas officials say person dies after brain-eating amoeba infection, likely exposed at splash pad

Health officials said there is no ongoing risk to the public from the exposure.
Naegleria fowleri (Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

An Arkansas resident has died after being infected with an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba and health officials have concluded they were likely exposed to it at a country’s club’s splash pad, authorities announced Thursday.

The Arkansas Department of Health announced the death from the Naegleria fowleri infection, a rare infection which destroys brain tissue, causing brain swelling and in certain cases, death. The department did not release details on the age of the person who died. The department said there is no ongoing risk to the public from the exposure.

The department said it concluded that the person who died was likely exposed at the Country Club of Little Rock’s splash pad. The department said it sent multiple samples from the country’s club pool and splash pad to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC confirmed one splash pad sample had viable Naegleria fowleri, the department said.

The country club has voluntarily closed the pool and splash pad, the department said. The pool and splash pad remain closed. The department said it has been in contact with the country club, which it said has been cooperative with inquiries.

Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the ameba enters the body through the nose, according to the CDC. This typically happens when people go swimming, diving, or when they put their heads under fresh water, like in lakes and rivers. The department said it is important to maintain pools and splash pads by making sure that disinfection levels are appropriate and free of soil contamination.

People cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water, according to the CDC. The last case reported in Arkansas was in 2013. Only about three people in the United States get infected each year, but these infections are usually fatal.