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Teen dies from infection after swimming in lake

ALEXANDRIA -- The Alexandria teen who  contracted a rare and severe brain infection after swimming in a Minnesota lake has died.

Hunter Boutain, 14, died Thursday at University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.

He was being treated for a suspected case of primary amebic meningoencephalitis,  which is caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri; he reportedly contracted the infection after swimming recently in Lake Minnewaska in Pope County.

Thursday afternoon, Bryan Boutain of Alexandria, Hunter’s uncle and family spokesperson issued this statement: “Hunter’s condition deteriorated throughout the night and he was declared brain dead this morning. Hunter died surrounded by his family. It is a deeply emotional time for all us. We ask for privacy and prayers as we remember our beloved Hunter.”

Hunter is the son of Jeffery Boutain of Alexandria and Rosie Boutain of Minneapolis.

After the news of Hunter’s death Thursday, Alexandria schools Superintendent Julie Critz

released a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers go out  to the family during this difficult time. Our Discovery (Middle School) and  Alexandria Area High School crisis teams are working to implement their crisis plans and will support the emotional needs of the family, students and staff  as they come to terms with this tragedy.”

When news of Hunter’s death spread online Thursday afternoon, an abundance of condolences filled the comment section extending prayers and God’s comfort to his family and friends.

In a Facebook post, Emersyn Harris, 13, of  Alexandria wrote: “I’m heartbroken and I can’t believe this has happened. I will miss you, Hunter.”

She was his science lab partner and eighth-grade classmate at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria.

The organism causing PAM can strike when swimmers in fresh water get water in their the nose, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Health officials are trying to develop tests to detect the ameba in the water, but so far those tests take weeks to show results.

“We wish we could predict when infections are going to occur and do something to prevent them, but unfortunately we cannot,” said Doug Schultz, a Health Department spokesman.

There were 35 cases of PAM reported in the United States in the last 10 years.

“This case is extremely rare,” said Sandy Tubbs, administrator of Horizon Public Health that serves several counties in west-central Minnesota.

There were 35 cases of PAM  reported in the U.S. in the last 10 years. “To have 35 cases in Minnesota would be rare, but to have 35 in the nation is extremely rare,” Tubbs said Wednesday.

The disease is more common in the South and has been confirmed only twice before in Minnesota.

Seven-year-old Annie Bahneman died of PAM in August 2010 after swimming in Stillwater's Lily Lake. It was an unusually warm summer and officials weren't immediately certain that Bahneman was infected in Lily Lake, so the beach remained open until 2012, when 9-year-old Jack Ariola Erenberg died of the same infection after swimming there.

Jaime Delage of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a media partner with Forum News Service, contributed to this report.

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