Is a brain-eating amoeba infection really that rare?

KPRC 2 crunches the numbers and looks at cases over the last five decades

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HOUSTON – In September, news broke that a brain-eating amoeba was responsible for the death of a 6-year-old Lake Jackson boy. Word of little Josiah McIntye’s passing quickly spread around the world.

Just how rare is it to be infected with a brain-eating amoeba? KPRC 2 analyzed the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1962-2019.

Source of exposure

Authorities said that McIntye came in contact with the amoeba (also called naegleria fowleri) from the public drinking water. According to the CDC most cases, 59%, originated from a lake, pond or reservoir. According to the CDC, 0.05% came from tap water and 0.03% can be traced back to an aquatic venue like a swimming pool or a spa.

source: CDC

Number of cases

According to the CDC, since 1962, there have been 148 cases. The highest number in one year was in 1980 when eight cases were recorded.

source: CDC

Age group and gender

Over the last five decades, a majority of the cases were found in males. According to the CDC, males made up 75% of the cases and they were predominantly between 5 and 14 years old.


Are neighborhoods testing their drinking water?

On Nov. 4 on KPRC 2 News at 10 p.m., KPRC 2 investigator Joel Eisenbaum looks into whether area neighborhoods are testing their drinking water. We’ve learned some cities are now testing their water, but many others still are not. We’ll find out why in Joel’s report.