Blake Driggers Dies from Rare Amoeba

10:38 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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Sumter, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says lab results confirm a Sumter boy died after coming in contact with a rare amoeba.

Blake Driggers, 8, died Tuesday.

His aunt, Beth White, says his family was informed Wednesday night that an autopsy revealed the amoeba as the cause of death.

White says Blake complained of not feeling well last Saturday morning after swimming in Lake Marion. On Sunday he got a high fever and was taken to Tuomey Regional Hospital. Doctors there decided to transport back to Palmetto Children's Hospital, where he later died.

White says his family was told that the parasite entered through the boy's nose.

As a precaution, Blake's sisters, ages 11 and 17, are at Palmetto Richland  for treatment. The two were swimming with Blake the day he is suspected of getting the amoeba.

A Facebook page has been set up in tribute to Blake.

Amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, enter through the nasal cavity and cause severe infections in the brain. They are most commonly found in warm freshwater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and therefore are more active in the summer. The CDC says people cannot become infected from drinking contaminated water, and the organisms cannot spread from one person to the other. LINK: CDC Page About Amoebas

"People should avoid swimming or jumping into bodies of fresh water when the water is warm and the water levels are low," said Kathleen Antonetti, M.D. and DHEC medical epidemiologist.

In the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, just 32 infections were reported in the U.S.

The CDC states initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Antonetti says anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. The disease usually causes death within 12 days.

"We are saddened to learn that this child was exposed to the deadly organism Naegleria fowleri," said Catherine Templeton, DHEC director. "While this organism is present in many warm water lakes, rivers and streams in the South, infection in humans is extremely rare. Naegleria fowleri almost always results in death."

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