A young woman from Franklin County, Ohio, died this week after being infected by the deadly brain-eating amoeba, medically known as the Naegleria fowleri. According to ABC News, the 18-year-old teenager died of a medical condition known as amebic meningoencephalitis caused by the deadly amoeba.
A CBS News report has identified the deceased teen as Lauren Seitz. According to officials from the Franklin County Health Department, Lauren is believed to have contracted the infection while she was on a white-water rafting trip in North Carolina and her raft overturned.
A statement issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services stated, “The deceased’s only known underwater exposure was believed to be when riding in a raft with several others that overturned at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.”
Lauren was a part of the Westerville South High School Bands, and the group has decided to co-ordinate a vigil in her memory. The official Twitter account of the band also posted a photo of Lauren.
WSMB- This Week & Lauren Seitz Memorial pic.twitter.com/Q2fNbhOG6k
— WSHS Bands (@WSBands) June 20, 2016
This is not the first time we have heard of a death caused by the deadly brain-eating amoeba. On average, there are reports of anywhere between zero to eight infections caused by this amoeba each year. In most cases, these infections tend to be fatal, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states.
While the Naegleria fowleri tends to be harmless even if you accidentally ingest them, trouble happens if and when they manage to travel to the brain via the nasal cavity. Once they reach the brain cells, it results in the aforementioned condition primary amebic meningoencephalitis that starts destroying brain tissue. First symptoms of the disease start appearing five days after the infection. This may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Once these symptoms appear, death could happen within the span of five days. To make matters worse, there is currently no known cure for the condition.
Ever since the condition was first observed, there have been 133 known infections caused by the brain-eating amoeba. Only three people are known to have survived an infection. One of the survivors includes 15-year-old Kali Hardig, who survived an infection in 2013.
The Naegleria fowleri is found widely in freshwater bodies across the U.S. In order to minimize the risk of an infection, the CDC advises people to avoid getting water up their noses while swimming in freshwater lakes and ponds. Swimmers are also advised to keep their head above water and to hold their nose shut while diving underwater.
There have also been cases of people getting infected by the amoeba through contaminated tap water. While this is an extremely rare scenario, there is a possibility of an infection happening through this route as well, particularly with people who use sinus rinsing devices. To prevent such an infection from happening, people have been advised to either filter such devices or use boiled water to rinse them before use.
According to Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, the brain-eating amoeba is widely found across the U.S. For the same reason, there is no way to completely screen each and every freshwater body in the country in order to certify them as safe.
“The amoeba are in small numbers everywhere,” Schaffner said. “They go hibernate in the winter time. They’re part of natural environment.”
He also reminded that infections caused by the brain-eating amoeba are extremely rare and that the fear of a possible infection should not deter people from going out for a dip in freshwater lakes. For those who are extremely worried about getting infected, he advised going to safer chlorinated swimming pools or the ocean.
[Image via Pixabay]