An eleven-year-old girl has died from a brain-eating amoeba which she contracted while swimming in the Edisto River near Charleston, USA.
“Hannah loved life, her family and friends and, although this is not the outcome we wished for, our sweet girl has joined the angels, and we know she will always be close by, watching over us,” the statement said.
The particular amoeba that attacked her is common in warm-water lakes, rivers and streams, but it is rare for humans to be infected. The organism reaches the brain through the nose - so it is more likely to be contracted by swimming in infected water rather than drinking it.
The amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which in turn attacks the brain tissue.
The amoeba can be found in Australia too, occurring naturally in the Northern Territory, however infections have also been reported in South Australia and Western Australia. Infection is rare, but look out for warning signs in high risk areas, and try not to swim in suspicious areas with pipes, hot water heaters, and public drinking water systems to prevent infection.
See this Gingin Shire factsheet on brain-eating amoeba for more information.