Family of child killed by brain-eating ameba linked to Arlington park retains attorney

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The family of the child who died from a rare brain-eating ameba he likely encountered at the Don Misenhimer Park splash pad in Arlington has retained an attorney, a city spokesperson confirmed Tuesday evening.

The child died Sept. 11 from primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a central nervous disease that destroys brain tissue. The disease is caused by Naegleria fowleri, a parasitic ameba that lives in warm freshwater and infects humans when it enters through the nose. The CDC has reported a handful of cases, if any at all, annually since 1962. Since then, Texas has reported 39 cases, the highest amount of any state.

No other cases have been reported to Tarrant County Public Health. The disease, which has a 97% fatality rate and kills most who are infected within eight days, would have shown itself in affected patients by Sept. 14, a county spokesperson said in an email.

The city closed the splash pad Sept. 5, after being notified the child was hospitalized at Cook Children’s Medical Center, and closed the other splash pads through the end of the year.

A city and county investigation under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that water samples from the park collected between Sept. 10 and Sept. 14 tested positive for the ameba.

Parks and recreation employees did not consistently conduct or record water quality testing at Don Misenhimer Park and The Beacon Recreation Center, the city said. Parks and recreation workers did not document chlorination levels on two of three days the child visited the park in late August and early September. The day after the child visited, the chlorination level had fallen below minimum requirements and was treated.

The city is conducting a review of splash pad equipment and maintenance, as well as water quality inspection procedures, training and policies for parks.

Arlington drinking water was not affected, according to the city. The ameba cannot infect people who drink contaminated water because stomach acid normally kills the cells.

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