Brain-eating amoebas have been blamed for the death of Hunter Boutain, 14, who developed symptoms of a brain infection after swimming in a Pope County, Minn., lake on July 7.
Boutain was taken off life support on Thursday morning at Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, just two days after the teen contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, a rare infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, according to the New York Daily News.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba," is a single-celled living organism that rarely infects humans. However, when it does, it's usually fatal.
Thirty-five cases of the infection were reported in the United States from 2005 through 2014, including single cases in Minnesota in 2010 and 2012. Both Minnesota cases were linked to a lake in Washington County, and both of those cases resulted in fatalities, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Last August, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced that the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in the water system of St. John the Baptist Parish, according to ABC News.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert, noted that while in freshwater, swimmers should take precautions such as using nose clips and not disturbing sediment where the amoeba might be in large numbers.
"The amoeba are in small numbers everywhere," explained Schaffner, who pointed out it was impractical to avoid all freshwater. "They go hibernate in the winter time. They're part of natural environment," he said.
Last week, these same amoebas were linked to the death of an unnamed woman in California.