Hunter A. Boutain Death: Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Minnesota Teen Two Days After Swimming In Lake

Patricia Didelot

Hunter A. Boutain died from a fatal infection two days after contracting a brain-eating amoeba while swimming in a Minnesota lake.

According to the New York Daily News, Boutain, 14, was taken off life support on Thursday morning at Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, just two days after the teen contracted the deadly primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), an infectious bacteria that is present in fresh, warm water and can infect the brain by traveling through the nasal cavity, according to health officials.

"We are praying for a miracle for this rascal. A miracle. A miracle. A MIRACLE. No matter how many times I whispered in his ear that I love him and that I wish he would be bothered enough by my buffalo-winged bad breath to punch me in the face... he does not." said Bryan Boutain, Hunter's uncle on a Caring Bridge page. "I mightily will him to do so. He does not. I beg him. He does not. I... yet, he does not. Why won't he? Come on, Hunter... say something smart to me! Hunter! Hunter? Hunter. Hunt..." he finished.

After Hunter A. Boutain died of the brain-eating amoeba, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health are investigating the case, which is the third linked to PAM since 2010. Hunter was swimming in Lake Minnewaska, which at 8,000 acres and 32 feet in depth, is larger than the lakes where the two earlier cases occurred.

"It is not what we think of as typical because the risk is greater when water temperatures are higher and water levels are lower," said Trisha Robinson, waterborne diseases unit supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Health.

The amoeba that killed Hunter is common but can only access the brain through the nose. Diving or jumping into the water seems to pose the greatest risk, according to Dr. Stacene Maroushek, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center. The bacteria has killed 35 people in the U.S. since 2005, public health records show.

"Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers," the CDC website reports.

Maroushek suggests avoiding getting water up your nose if you go swimming in a lake. The physician recommends to use nose plugs and avoid diving to prevent something like this from happening.

In the meantime, local officials are trying to calm visitors' fears and assure them Lake Minnewaska is safe, after Hunter A. Boutain's death from the brain-eating amoeba, according to KARE11.

"We don't believe, in our discussions with the Minnesota Department of Health, that there's any higher risk of it happening again in Lake Minnewaska than any other lake," said Sharon Braaten, the assistant administrator of Horizon Public Health.

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