Toddler Dies From Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

Toddler Dies From Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection
Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba. (Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A 2-year-old boy died on July 19 after becoming infected with a rare amoeba known to damage the brain, according to his family. The toddler reportedly contracted the condition while swimming in a natural hot spring in Nevada.

Woodrow Bundy’s family said in a statement on social media that the child started experiencing “flu-like symptoms” last week. His parents decided to take him to a hospital after they noticed that their son began showing “signs of deeper distress.”

At first, doctors thought that Woodrow had meningitis, but health care professionals ultimately worked out that the boy was infected by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a disease of the central nervous system that is almost always fatal.

“Woodrow Turner Bundy returned victoriously to our father in heaven at 2:56 am,” his mother, Briana Bundy, said. “He fought 7 days. The longest any person has survived on record is 3. I knew I had the strongest son in the world. He is my hero and I will forever be grateful to God for giving me the goodest baby boy on earth, and I am grateful to know I will have that boy in heaven someday.”

Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that thrives in warm fresh water and hot springs, usually eats bacteria. However, once it gets into the human brain, it consumes neurons.

The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) said in a news release obtained by FOX5 that Woodrow might have been exposed in Ash Springs, a natural hot spring in the broad open expanse of Pahragant Valley in Lincoln County.

“If you wind up getting infected with it, chances are you’re going to die,” Dr. Brian Labus told the network. “Very few people have actually survived this type of infection.”

According to the DPBH, if water containing the amoeba enters the nose, the microbe can get to the brain and cause PAM.

“That’s where it starts to multiply, and in doing so, actually starts to destroy brain tissue,” Dr. Labus explained. “It progresses rather rapidly because it’s actively destroying brain tissue, so it’s very difficult for your body to deal with something like that and fight it off.”

A relative of the Bundy family has since set up a GoFundMe page in order to help pay for medical and funeral costs. So far, the fundraiser has collected more than $16,000 of their $20,000 goal.


According to a notice on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, 157 infections have been registered across the country between 1962 and 2022, with only four survivors. This brings the death rate of the Naegleria fowleri to over 97 percent.

Of the total infections recorded, 126 have been reported in children and more than 75 percent of infections were found in males. Only about three people in the United States get infected each year, but these infections are usually fatal.

“These infections have primarily occurred in 15 southern-tier states, with almost half of all infections occurring in Texas and Florida. PAM also disproportionately affects males and children,” according to the CDC.

“The reason for this distribution pattern is unclear but may reflect the types of water activities (such as diving or watersports) that might be more common among young boys.”

Early symptoms of Naegleria fowleri may be similar to bacterial meningitis, including nausea, fever, vomiting, and headaches, with most cases resulting in death within days, the CDC writes.

“Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations, and coma. After symptoms start, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days (but death can happen within 1 to 18 days),” according to the agency.


Health officials recommend Americans take precautions to protect themselves against potential Naegleria fowleri infections by avoiding nasal contact with freshwater sources such as water from lakes, rivers, and canals. The organism is most commonly contracted from engaging in recreational activities such as swimming or diving. The organism cannot be contracted from drinking, however, nor can it be transmitted from person to person.

The CDC said in a health advisory that the risk of infection can be reduced by trying to prevent water from going up the nose, avoiding jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater, avoiding putting the head underwater in hot springs, and avoiding stirring up the sediment in shallow, warm freshwater, especially during the summer season.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, has warned against cleaning noses improperly, such as using tap water. As tap water is not filtered or treated, it is not safe for nasal rinse and may contain organisms that could stay in the nasal passages resulting in serious infections.

For a nasal rinse, the FDA advises people to only use distilled or sterile water, water that has been passed through a filter that traps microbes, or water that has been boiled for three to five minutes and cooled until lukewarm.

Epoch Times reporter Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

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