Summer scare: lake bacteria nearly kills teen

Common bacteria that lurks in the mud in and around lakes has nearly killed an apparently healthy teenager in North Carolina.

While the CDC reports that the bacteria is common and sickness caused by it is rare (fewer than 150 infections have been reported worldwide between 1927 and 2005), officials caution swimmers not to drink lake water or dig around lakes, just in case.

Not long after a day of swimming and digging around the Hope Wells Lake, Matthew McKinney complained to his mother of a fever and a runny nose. Believed to have been sickened by naturally occurring Chromobacterium Violaceum, within a few days Matthew’s teeth began falling out due to decay caused by the bacteria.

It soon became apparent that the fast-spreading bacteria was eating the boy alive, visibly manifesting as swelling in the nose, cheek and gum areas. Doctors have since removed part of his nose, five of the boy’s teeth and half of the palette in his mouth.

Officials have not closed the lake, as the bacteria is “abundant” in most warm-water lakes in the Southeastern US. However, Matthew’s father Brian told a local paper he’d like to see signs posted cautioning swimmers not to “disturb the mud.” Rare as it may be, I think I’m just gonna stick to pools from now on.