A TODDLER with an "illuminating smile" died after playing at a children's splash park.
Michael Alexander Pollock III likely contracted naegleria fowleri – a rare brain-eating amoeba – while swimming with friends.
The 16-month-old, from Little Rock, Arkansas, is at least the fifth person to have passed away from the illness in the US so far this year.
It is feared the parasite swam up his nose as he paddled in the water at the Country Club of Little Rock.
Health officials said the infection, which was confirmed by lab testing, was likely caused by "exposure" to the venue's splash pad.
Michael died at Arkansas Children's Hospital on September 4.
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He was "the pride and joy of his parents", Michael and Julia, according to his obituary.
It added: "Though Michael’s time on Earth was short, he touched the hearts of family, friends, and even strangers he came across with his illuminating smile and playfulness."
The country club's pools closed following the youngster's death.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) insisted there was "no ongoing risk to the public".
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Naegleria fowleri lives in soil and warm, freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and hot springs, but can also be found in pools and splash pads that are not properly maintained, the ADH said.
It infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It then feeds on brain tissue, leading to severe neurological damage.
Symptoms typically begin about five days later, with a severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.
The illness then usually progresses, causing a stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations and sometimes a coma.
This can then lead to death, the ADH added.
Infections are rare, with only 157 reported between 1962 and 2022.
But it is fatal in almost all cases, with a survival rate of just three per cent.
In order to avoid falling ill, health officials recommend:
- Holding your nose shut or using nose clips
- Keeping your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater
- Avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature
- Avoiding digging in or stirring up the sediment while participating in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas
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Michael's death follows the passing of two-year-old Woodrow Bundy, who contracted the amoeba after swimming in Ash Springs, Nevada, in July.
Other deaths were reported in Georgia, Texas, and Florida.
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