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GoFundMe page was set to help the family of Omaha boy who died from amoeba infection

Friends of the family of the 8-year-old Omaha child who died after contracting a rare amoeba disease from the Elkhorn River have created a GoFundMe page to assist with medical and burial costs.

“With extremely heavy hearts, we share the news that Easton Scott Gray tragically passed away on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. Easton was taken from our world after succumbing to a battle of a very aggressive rare amoeba bacteria that entered his body” while he was swimming.

Officials from the Douglas County Health Department stated on Thursday that unusually warm water along the Elkhorn River’s bank likely played a significant factor in Easton’s illness. The amoeba Naegleria fowleri is believed to have caused his death due to a nervous system infection.

Rare, rapidly-spreading illness is almost invariably lethal. The infection-causing bacteria is believed to be naturally present in the waterways of Nebraska, but only becomes infectious when water temperatures reach the mid-80s, according to health experts.

During the week that Easton was in the river, water temperatures ranged from 86 to 92 degrees, according to measurements conducted within several miles of the likely exposure site, according to Justin Frederick, supervisor of infectious disease epidemiology for the Health Department. Easton was located in a warm, shallow section of the river.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infection develops when the amoeba enters the nose, travels to the brain, and destroys brain tissue.

Typically, this occurs when a person inhales a large volume of water through the nose, according to Lindsay Huse, director of health for Douglas County.

The Douglas County health department was informed Thursday evening by the CDC that the youngster was infected with Naegleria fowleri, according to a statement released Friday. According to health professionals, the bacteria causes Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis.

The county stated that plugging the nose, avoiding submersion of the head and/or preventing water from entering the nose, avoiding stirring up sediment, and avoiding freshwater sources during late summer weeks when water temperatures rise and water levels fall can reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

Easton began exhibiting symptoms five days after exposure, according to health officials who have not disclosed his identity. Within forty-eight hours of exhibiting symptoms, he was hospitalized before passing away a few days later.

According to the GoFundMe campaign created by Monte Heiman and Daisy Smith, one of his favorite activities was swimming and enjoying the outdoors. Heiman stated on Friday that Easton enjoyed his Colorado vacation.

Easton is survived by his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

“As Easton was taken from the world too soon, we ask for your thoughts and prayers for his family and friends as they mourn this incredibly tragic period,” the GoFundMe page reads. “Along with your prayers, please help us raise funds to assist in covering the unexpected medical and funeral expenses incurred by the family of young Easton.”

The organizers specified that all contributions will go directly to the Gray family to help with expenditures.

Monday at 10 a.m., memorial services will be held at the West Center Chapel of Heafey Hoffmann Dworak Cutler Mortuaries, 7805 West Center Road.

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