Summer is in full swing and that means a lot of swimming to beat the heat. Not in Minnesota though, where a 14-year-old has been confirmed to be infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a lake.

Hunter Boutain remains in critical condition at the University of Minnesota Medical Center after he apparently inhaled the amoeba Naegleria fowleri while taking a dip in Lake Minnewaska. He is still unresponsive and gets help from a respirator to breathe. Now the lake is deserted because many are fearful the water will get them sick. Many of the locals are sad about the situation, but they understand that awareness is important in ensuring no one else gets sick.

Since 2010, the Naegleria fowleri has been involved in three cases and at least three others that have not been confirmed. Historically, the amoeba thrives in warmer, southern waters, which is why its presence now in the state is met with a little bit of surprise. To be more accurate, the Naegleria fowleri has always existed in Minnesota's lakes, but cases of infections are rare. In fact, only 129 cases in the country have been confirmed since 1962.

Boutain got sick in a large body of water while previous cases in Minnesota occurred in the smaller Lily Lake, so state health officials warn that precautions should be taken at all times when swimming in a freshwater lake.

The only real way of avoiding an infection is to stay out of lake water completely, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen, most especially with summer underway. The next best thing is to teach all swimmers to keep their heads above water while in a lake or to plug their noses when diving. It is important not to breathe in any lake water because that is how the amoeba finds its way into the brain. Accidentally drinking water from the lake, though, is safe.

Once an infection is acquired, it may take around five days before initial symptoms appear. The amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), an infection in the brain that causes brain tissue to be destroyed. Associated symptoms include headaches, vomiting, fever, confusion, seizures and hallucinations. Once symptoms begin, PAM rapidly progresses, usually leading to death in just around five days but can range up to 12 days.

Photo: Daniel Marchese | Flickr

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