A woman who died after waking up from a nap was suffering from a brain-eating amoeba, public health officials confirmed Friday.
She contracted the parasite in Bishop, about 60 miles southeast of Yosemite National Park. No one in the area is at risk, officials added.
The woman was on private property when she was infected, so health officials are working with her family to investigate the source of her infection.
The 21-year-old woke up from a nap last month with flu-like symptoms. After getting examined initially, physicians diagnosed her with meningitis. Her symptoms got worse, and after checking into a hospital in Reno, died of cardiac arrest.
The amoeba, or Naegleria fowleri, thrives in freshwater and soil. Infections come from contaminated water entering the nose orifices, leaving a clear path to the brain. Like the woman, the infection starts off like a flu – vomiting, fever, headaches – before the infection manifests into hallucinations, seizures, and in most cases, death.
This isn’t the first death from a naegleria fowleri infection this year in the U.S. Nine-year-old Hally Yust died from the parasite after water skiing in contaminated water in Kansas last July.
Health officials are urging that coming into contact with the amoeba is extremely rare, while infections are even more so.
“This is a tragic event for someone who becomes infected, as well as their family,” Richard Johnson, a public health official in Inyo County, California said. “I feel that it is important for all of us to be informed even though it does not affect lots of people each year.
“I want to emphasize that there have been no evident cases of amoeba contamination in the U.S. in well-maintained, properly treated swimming pools or hot springs.”