A child dies after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba in a water sprinkler in Texas
The hospital notified city and county officials on September 5 of the baby’s condition, according to the press release. The county health department has launched an investigation and identified two potential sources of amoeba exposure – the family’s home in Tarrant County and Don Misenhimer Park in Arlington.
The news release says the city immediately closed this splash pad, and out of great caution closed its three other public spray pads for the rest of the year.
On September 24, the CDC determined, according to the news release, that the child was likely exposed to the organism in the spray pad after tests confirmed the presence of active Naegleria fowleri amoeba in water samples from the garden.
The press release stated that the city’s drinking water was not contaminated. It says the mist pad is equipped with a backflow prevention device designed to isolate the facility’s water system.
Low chlorine levels may be a factor
The City of Arlington conducted an investigation into spray pad maintenance procedures, equipment, and water testing. City officials determined that water quality testing data needed improvement, and sometimes employees did not perform the test before opening the spray pad each day, according to the press release.
“We have identified gaps in our daily inspection program,” Deputy City Manager Lemuel Randolph said in the press release. “These vulnerabilities have resulted in our maintenance standards not being met for our splash pads. All water mist pads will remain closed until we make sure our systems are operating as they should, and we have confirmed maintenance protocol compliant with city, county and state standards.”
Records from two sprinkler platforms, including those at Don Misenhimer Park, showed that employees did not consistently record, or in some cases did not conduct, the required water quality testing before facilities opened each day, according to the press release. The test includes checking for chlorine, which is used as a disinfectant.
The press release said a review of records found that chlorination readings were not documented on two of the three days the child visited the park in late August and early September.
“Documents show that chlorine levels two days before the child’s last visit were within acceptable ranges,” the statement said. “However, the following documented reading, which occurred the day after the child’s visit, shows that the chlorine level has fallen below the required minimum and that additional chlorine has been added to the water system.”
It takes about five days after infection for the initial symptoms of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis to appear, according to the CDC. Initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. The disease progresses quickly and usually causes death between 1 and 18 days after symptoms appear, according to the CDC.
The CDC says that Naegleria fowleri infection is rare. From 2010 to 2019, 34 infections were reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these cases, 30 people were infected with recreational water, three people were infected after performing nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water, and one person was infected with contaminated tap water used in a backyard Slip ‘N Slide.
CNN’s Amir Vera and Lauren Johnson contributed to this report.