The Naegleria fowleri parasite is extremely rare, experts say, but that will be no comfort to the family of 14-year-old Hunter Boutain. The Minnesota teenager, the latest victim of the brain-eating amoeba, was dead just 48 hours after he became infected while swimming in a Minnesota lake, the New York Daily News reports. The amoeba travels to the brain through the nose, and to minimize the risk of infection, health experts advise using nose plugs while swimming in lakes or to at least avoid dives that could get water up the nose, reports the AP, which notes that experts are worried by how far north the latest case is.
The parasite is usually found in Southern states, but this is the third infection in Minnesota since 2010, and there have been three other unconfirmed cases in the state. "Prior to our 2010 case, the northernmost case was 550 miles south of us," the chief of the state health department's waterborne diseases unit tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It should be assumed that it can be anywhere." She says that while adults are just as susceptible to infection as children, children "are more adventurous and more likely to participate in activities that would get water up their noses." Swimmers are also advised to keep their heads above water and avoid stirring up the lake sediment where the amoeba dwells. (The parasite killed a 21-year-old woman in California last week.)