Several children from states like Georgia, Nevada, and Texas, have died from Naegleria Fowleri infections this year. These infections come on the heels of a lawsuit by a Texas city to settle a lawsuit over a 3-year old old boy’s death after contracting Naegleria fowleri in September 2021. However, Naegleria fowleri infections have been reported all over America over the decades, not just in the Sunbelt states. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever, a severe headache, stiff neck, seizures, altered mental state, and hallucinations. Some may go into a coma before brain death.
Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating microscopic amoeba that mostly lives in bodies of water with fresh water. Hot springs are a favorite of Naegleria fowleri, though it may also be found in lakes and rivers. Naegleria fowleri infection can only occur when water enters through the nose. Naegleria fowleri causes Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), a nearly fatal disease for which there is currently no cure.
Naegleria fowleri infection has been historically rare, with only 157 cases reported between 1962 and 2022. However, reported cases have notably gone up in recent years. Since Naegleria fowleri prefers water temperatures from 95º F to 113º F, the warmer summers may be a potential cause of the recent uptake in cases.
Suing Government Entities Is an Uphill Battle But Possible
Many of the Naegleria fowleri infections often come from public waters, which are owned by various state and local governments. However, suing governments is often difficult since they often have varied immunities to different kinds of lawsuits. This is especially true after the Covid-19 pandemic, as governments sought to protect themselves from expected disease-related lawsuits.
Governments are often immune from lawsuits because the best way to hold them accountable is not the courtroom, but the ballot box. It is ultimately voters who decide whether a state or local government wants to pass laws making the community healthier, or to loosen such restrictions to boost the economy and personal freedoms. Government employees cannot ordinarily be sued for making such decisions, or carrying out such directives, as they are simply doing their jobs to weigh the risks and rewards on behalf of the whole population.
However, government bodies do not always prevail in court. The Texas city settled in 2022, so the victim’s family likely received some compensation. It is easier for the victims’ families to prevail when the infection can be traced back to government owned property. While public employees are only responsible to voters for the decisions they make regarding public policy, they are often still responsible to individual persons when it comes to maintaining their own land. Public employees may still potentially liable for making their premises safe just like any other property owners.
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