Published On: Fri, Dec 21st, 2012

Father of ‘brain-eating amoeba’ victim Jack Ariola Erenberg, files wrongful death lawsuit

brain-eating amoeba

Naegleri fowleri Image/CDC

In early August, the family of 9-year-old Jack Ariola Erenberg saw their son succumb to a fatal amoebic parasite after swimming with his sisters in Lily Lake.

It is being reported today that the father of the deceased child, Jim Ariola, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Stillwater, the city’s parks and recreation department, Washington County and the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a Pioneer Press report today.

According to the report, Ariola sought the legal services of Arizona attorney, Roger Strassburg, who has a history of litigating similar cases.

The lawsuit claims that the city of Stillwater, Washington County and the state of Minnesota were all well aware of the risks of Naegleria fowleri, citing the 2010 case of 7-year-old Annie Bahneman, who contracted the deadly parasite after swimming in the same lake.

The complaint says the city failed to post warnings and properly treat the water.

According to Strassburg,  Ariola is also seeking damages and attorneys’ fees, and to hold the government agencies accountable “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Attorneys for the city of Stillwater say they have not yet been served.

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N. fowleri is a single-celled protozoan parasite (amoeba) that is found in very warm surface waters such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. The warm water temperatures of the hot summer months allow the ameba to multiply.

People typically get infected by swimming, jumping or playing in freshwater and get the water up their nose. From there the parasite travels to the brain and spinal cord and necrotizes, or basically eats brain tissue.

The disease is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and it has a very rapid progression. Typical symptoms may start after a day or two; headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Later symptoms may include seizures, irrational behavior, hallucinations and finally coma and death. The course of the disease typically last about a week. Because the symptoms are very similar to bacterial meningitis, PAM may not even be considered in the diagnosis.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty rare disease, with only a few dozen cases reported in the past decade.

Unfortunately, treatment is usually unsuccessful with only a handful of people surviving infection.

Related article: Neti pots, Naegleria and you

You should always assume there is some risk when swimming in freshwater. The location and number of amoeba present in a body of water varies from time to time. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends these four steps to reduce your risk of infection:

• Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
• Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
• Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Minnesota child in critical condition with a suspected Naegleria fowleri infection | Outbreak News Today says:

    […] including single cases in Minnesota in 2010 and 2012. Both Minnesota cases were linked to a lake in Washington County. Prior to the confirmation of the 2010 Minnesota case, the infection had not been detected north of […]

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