RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – New information in the death of a 9-year-old Glen Allen boy. Christian Rand's mother confirmed for us today that her son's fatal case of meningitis stemmed from an amoeba he picked up while swimming in the James River. The little boy died just over a week ago.
This infection is so rare, that only 32 people died from it between 2001 and 2010...the latest victim, a Florida teenager who died this afternoon. While legal reasons prevent the Virginia Health Department from officially identifying Christian Rand...the death of a child is enough that it's warning swimmers to play with caution.
"Even when they told me he was brain dead, I thought he was going to wake up and say, 'Hi mommy.' that never happened," said Amber Strickland, Christian Rand's mother.
And now Amber Strickland knows why. She says officials told her that her son inhaled an amoeba while swimming.
"I just can't believe he's gone!" she said.
The Health Department issued a release, confirming that a child death has occurred in the area, caused by the same amoeba.
"When a person becomes infected with it, it's from getting water up their nose and when the water goes up their nose it can access then the central nervous system and the brain and cause an infection," said Keri Hall with the Health Department.
It's news that's enough to cause some swimming in the James to take pause.
"We'll probably just stick our feet in it instead of putting our whole bodies in it and I think some of us all probably got some water up our nose today, so that's extremely scary," said Shawana Willis.
"It's kind of scary but I'll definitely keep any little signs that I have a feeling of illness, whether it be meningitis or anything else," Quilla Philbrick added.
Health officials say getting this infection is extremely rare, and you can't get it just by swallowing water.
"The chances of getting this amoeba from swimming are much, much less than from the chances of drowning from swimming or even the chances of getting other types of infections from swimming," Hall said.
To avoid the health risk all together, avoid stagnant water. The amoeba tends to exist in still, hot fresh water. Also, keep your head above water or use a nose plug, so it can't get into your nose. And keep in mind-- this is incredibly rare. This is the first case of the infection in Virginia, since 1969.