It started with a headache about two weeks ago. But a 21-year-old California woman soon began vomiting, and after being unable to shake the symptoms within a day, went to the hospital on June 17. Officials say she's now dead, having succumbed to a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba, reports CBS Sacramento. The unidentified Bishop, Calif., resident was initially diagnosed with meningitis, but was later flown to a hospital in Reno after her condition worsened. Shortly afterward, she went into cardiac arrest and died, prompting testing by the CDC. The cause of death has been established as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis or PAM, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. The infection is caused by Naegleria fowleri—an amoeba found in warm, still waters that, once in the body, travels to the brain and destroys brain tissue.
Incidents of PAM are extremely rare, with only 35 reported cases in the past 10 years, according to the CDC. Infections typically occur when the amoeba enters a person's nose through contaminated water, and the fatality rate is dismal: nearly 98%. The CDC notes that there have been just three known survivors out of 133 people reported to have been infected in the US from 1962 to 2014. Officials shared few details about the woman's exposure to the amoeba beyond saying they believe it occurred on private property and that the public is not at risk. The CDC recommends using distilled or sterile water in neti pots, properly chlorinating pools, and avoiding head submersion in still water to reduce one’s risk of infection. (This girl is the third-known survivor of PAM.)