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Third victim dies from rare form of meningitis Sunday

Published: Sunday, August 26, 2001

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

AUSTIN (AP) — A Houston-area boy who had been swimming in a Central Texas lake has become the third child fatality from a rare form of meningitis in the past month.

The 9-year-old boy died Sunday after skiing and swimming in Lake Travis near Austin the previous weekend, according to state health officials.

The victim had been with his family during the Aug. 11 weekend at Lake Travis. The lake was the last body of water the boy swam in before he died, health officials said.

Officials did not know what part of the lake the family visited. They declined to identify the boy, citing medical confidentiality.

Lower Colorado River Authority officials said they were aware of no previous cases involving the lake, northwest of Austin.

“Lake Travis is a very unlikely source of infection in general because the organism is usually found in more shallow water where the water is standing,” Dr. Steven Harris of the Austin- Travis County Health Department told the Austin American- Statesman in Tuesday’s editions.

Earlier this month, a Tyler-area girl died after swimming in Lake Hawkins and Lake Palestine near Tyler. A Dallas-area boy died after swimming in Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas.

All the victims died from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is caused by a common amoeba found in almost all untreated surface water and in soil, health officials said.

State health officials continued Monday to warn people about activities in lakes, rivers, stock ponds and bodies of stagnant water.

But a Texas Department of Health report states the probability of becoming infected is less than 1 in 100 million.

The last time anyone died from the disease after swimming in Travis County was in 1980, when a 23-year-old woman contracted it in Lake Austin, said Neil Pascoe, a nurse epidemiologist with the Texas Department of Health.

Infection is believed to occur when the water containing the microorganism is forced into the nasal passages, usually when diving or jumping into the water or skiing, and the amoeba then enters the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms include severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, seizures and hallucinations. The disease is almost always fatal.

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