Boy Contracts Rare Illness at Austin-area Lake

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - An Austin-area boy is fighting what health officials believe is a rare and usually fatal form of meningitis.

Officials say they believe the boy is 11 or 12 years old. They say he's in the Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin after becoming sick after swimming in Lake LBJ.

The state health department says laboratory tests are pending, but doctors think he has primary amebic meningoencephalitis -- or PAM.

Emily Palmer is a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

She says the amoebas responsible for the illness live in soil and in all bodies of fresh water not fed springs, which often are too cool for the organisms to survive.

She says the single-cell organisms thrive in peaceful waters above 80 degrees.

Only 34 cases of PAM have been reported in Texas since 1972, and all have been fatal. The last was in 2005.

The name of the child has not been released because of medical privacy laws.