Boy’s Death from Brain Infection Suspected to Be Caused by “Brain-Eating Amoeba” in Lake Minnewaska, Minnesota

Hunter Boutain, a 14-year-old boy who developed a rare brain infection after swimming in a Minnesota lake, died Thursday. The family of Hunter Boutain made the announcement in a statement issued through the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where he died. The family lives in Alexandria.

“Hunter’s condition deteriorated throughout the night and he was declared brain dead this morning,” his uncle and family spokesman, Brian Boutain, said in the statement. “Hunter died surrounded by his family. It is a deeply emotional time for all us. We ask for privacy and prayers as we remember our beloved Hunter.”

David Martinson, a spokesman for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, confirmed the boy’s death.

N. fowleri is found around the world in:

Warm lakes, ponds, and rock pits
Mud puddles
Warm, slow-flowing rivers, especially those with low water levels
Untreated swimming pools and spas
Untreated well water or untreated municipal water
Hot springs and other geothermal water sources
Thermally polluted water, such as runoff from power plants
Soil, including indoor dust

Naegleria thrive very warm water, and can survive in water as hot as 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health are working to confirm whether the youth’s infection was the result of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. As of Thursday there is no definitive timeline for getting results. If confirmed a case of N. fowleri amoeba infection, it would be Minnesota’s third verified death from the amoeba.

The water parasite is more common in lakes in warmer southern states. Boutain’s case has health officials puzzled because it happened in Lake Minnewaska in western Minnesota, which is a much bigger lake than the smaller, more easily-warmed lakes where the two previous cases occurred. Previous cases in 2010 and 2012 happened in Stillwater’s shallow Lily Lake. The Naegleria fowleri amoeba had not been found so far north before 2010.

Naegleria fowleri amoeba, sometimes called “Brain-eating amoeba” enters the brain through the nasal cavity, with diving or jumping into the water possibly increasing the risk of infection.

The best way to prevent an infection, besides staying out of lakes, is to swim with a nose clip.

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