Deadly Parasites Linked to Two Young Deaths

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The separate deaths of two young people after they swam in lakes has brought light to a rare "brain-eating" bacteria that thrives in hot weather.

A 9-year-old boy from Henrico County, Va., died Aug. 5 after being infected with a microscopic parasite.

He was the first in Virginia to die of "amoebic meningoencephalitis" since 1969, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

A similar death also occurred last weekend in central Florida involving a 16-year-old girl.

The parasite, which is often found in stagnant lakes and other freshwater, enters the body through the nose and then makes its way to the brain, causing a deadly infection.

"There's only been a handful, maybe less than a handful of cases that have been diagnosed early, appropriately treated and have survived," explained Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Symptoms are often missed by doctors.

At first patients develop a headache, fever and nausea. Later they become confused and experience loss of balance and even hallucinations.

Doctors say the parasite encounters are a very rare occurrence, but one that people need to be aware of.

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