On September 11th, a young boy died at Cook Children’s Medical Center after contracting a rare brain-eating amoeba from a city splash pad.
The parents of 3-year-old Bakari Wiliams told WFAA that their child became sick with a 103-degree fever after playing in a splash pad, a water attraction that recycles water. The pad was inside the Don Misenhimer Park in Arlington.
Bakari Williams was officially diagnosed with “primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)” after his immune system was attacked by the Naegleria Fowleri amoeba. The CDC identifies Naegleria Fowleri as a freshwater single-celled organism capable of causing a “rare and devastating infection of the brain.”
PAM is extremely rare, as only 148 have been reported in the last 60 years; via CDC historical data. It is even more unlikely to get infected by PAM in a controlled environment, as it is almost always contracted in lakes and rivers (2010 Journal of Neuroparasitology).
The family of Bakari has sued the City of Arlington for damages amounting to around $1 million. Attorney Stephen Stewart told officials, “If you’re going to offer this type of public amusement…you’ve got to do it right. It’s too serious not to. It’s life and death.”
On September 27th, Arlington Mayor Jim Ross took responsibility on behalf of his city. “We absolutely failed,” he said about the incident. He told WFAA that the city had shut down all the splash pads, and that poor water chlorination could have led to the infection.
Documents were released by the City of Arlington that showed records of water chlorination in the parks. The Don Misenhimer park staff did not record chlorination or water quality for 60 days during the splash pad’s operation. Chlorine has been proven by experts to help prevent the growth and spread of amoeba and is widely used in modern-day pools.
The chlorination records can be reached at: https://arlingtontx.gov/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=18032031