Second Death this Month Caused by Deadly Parasite

PHOTO: Christian Alexander Strickland, 9, died Aug. 5, 2011, from amoebic meningoencephalitis, a deadly parasitic infection that attacks the brain and spine, after attending a fishing camp.
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A second child died this month from a deadly parasite that grows in stagnant waters, health officials confirmed Tuesday.

Bonnie Strickland, the aunt of 9-year-old Christian Alexander Strickland, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that her nephew died Aug. 5 from amoebic meningoencephalitis, a deadly parasitic infection that attacks the brain and spine, after attending a fishing camp.

"The doctor described it to us as such a slight chance that they didn't even think it would be possible," Strickland told the newspaper.

"Sadly, we have had a Naegleria infection in Virginia this summer," Dr. Keri Hall, state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, said in a statement. "It's important that people be aware of...safe swimming messages."

A week after Christian's fishing camp, he began experiencing the telltale symptoms of the parasitic infection-turned-meningitis: headache, stiffness, fever and nausea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also confirmed that a 16-year-old Floridan, Courtney Nash, died Saturday from the parasitic illness after swimming with her cousins in St. John's river. Within a week, she began experiencing the same symptoms, Barry Inman, an epidemiologist at the Brevard County Health Department, told ABCnews.com.

The parasite, also known as the brain eating amoeba, enters through the nose, travels through the sinuses and infects the brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Though this parasite is very rare, it tends to grow in stagnant, freshwater during high summer temperatures, Inman said.

"She was out swimming ... in the St. John's River, having fun like any other kids would in the water," Nash's uncle, Tom Uzel, said at a press conference Monday morning. Nash and her family had swum in that river all their lives.

One in 10 Million Chance of Contracting Illness

"We have signs up in public freshwaters," said Inman. "All we can do is inform people that the organism is there. It's going to proliferate and grow, especially in the hot months. There are nose clips people can wear to reduce risk, but someone who doesn't want any risk needs to stay out of freshwater ponds and streams, especially those that are stagnant."

Inman said that anyone suffering from the symptoms of this parasitic infection -- fever, nausea, stiff neck and a frontal headache -- should seek medical attention.

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