Mysterious Death Autopsy Complete, Lake LBJ Connection Possible - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/5/07

Mysterious Death Autopsy Complete, Lake LBJ Connection Possible

Lubbock's Chief Medical Examiner, Thomas Beaver, says the autopsy of a 22-year-old Lubbock man is complete.

As NewsChannel 11 was first to tell you on Tuesday, the Lubbock Health Department is investigating the case. Colby Sawyer died Monday, after a sudden illness. Family members say he recently spent time wake boarding at Lake LBJ near Austin, where he injured his ear drum. He became ill upon his return to Lubbock.

Beaver says the victim apparently suffered a form of encephalitis or vasculitis, which can be caused by an amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri. That organism is typically found in fresh warm water that has become stagnant. It enters a human through an orifice, typically the nose. Entry through the ear is rare, though possible. It can cause Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, a syndrome that affects the central nervous system. The incubation period is approximately seven to ten days. Symptoms can include headaches, neck stiffness, and blurry vision. However, Beaver says, once those symptoms present themselves, the outcome is almost always fatal.

"It's pretty rare," says Beaver. "These infections are rare even in water that's infected with this organism. The infection is very rare."

Beaver says the presence of the amoeba must be confirmed by a tissue sample sent to the Texas Department of Health. Test results are now pending.

This same amoeba can also cause meningitis.

NewsChannel 11 has learned that a 12-year-old Austin boy died from meningitis last month, after he too came down with an infection after swimming at Lake LBJ. This particular form of meningitis is extremely rare. Since 1972, there have been only 34 other cases in Texas, all of them fatal. Worldwide, the fatality rate is 95 percent.

"It's a rare set of circumstances that two people would come out of the same body of water with this infection," says Beaver. "As you can tell it's causing us a lot of concern, and we need to get a handle on what's going on here."

Services for Colby Sawyer will be held Friday at 2:00pm, at the First Church of the Nazarene, under the direction of Lake Ridge Chapel.

A memorial fund for funeral expenses is in place. Donations can be made to any branch of City Bank.

Stay with NewsChannel 11 and KCBD.com for the latest developments.

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