Brain-eating amoeba are blamed in the death of a 21-year-old California woman. Health officials confirmed the unidentified woman reported to the Northern Inyo Hospital on June 16 with symptoms that mimicked meningitis. However, as her condition continued to deteriorate, she was later diagnosed with a rare infection caused by Naegleria fowleri.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as “brain-eating amoeba,” rarely infect humans. Unfortunately, they can cause a devastating infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.
Naegleria fowleri, which thrive in warm freshwater, enter the body through the nose.
According to the CDC, infections are rare, as the contaminated water must be forced into the nasal cavity. However, risky behaviors, including diving, submerging the head, and irrigating the sinuses, should be avoided.
Once inside the nose, Naegleria fowleri travel to the brain, where they destroy tissue.
During Stage 1, patients experience fever, severe headache, nausea, and vomiting. During Stage 2, symptoms escalate to include altered mental state, coma, hallucinations, and seizures, and a stiff neck.
Although the CDC has verified four survivors in the last 37 years, primary amebic meningoencephalitis is generally fatal.
It is unclear how the California woman contracted the brain-eating amoeba. However, health officials said they are fairly certain she was “infected on private land,” which is not accessible by the general public.
— Houston News (@abc13houston) July 2, 2015
Richard Johnson, M.D. said officials will inspect the property to determine whether there is cause for concern.
“Our next steps are to inspect the suspected sites of exposure to find what risk factors might exist like places where people might go swimming and where the domestic water supply is on the property.”
As discussed by the CDC, Naegleria fowleri are most prominent in warm freshwater sources in the southern United States. However, brain-eating amoeba have been detected “as far north as Minnesota.”
To prevent infection, the CDC suggests avoiding freshwater sources “during periods of high water temperature.” When swimming in freshwater, the CDC recommends refraining from submerging the head, diving, and disturbing the sediment.
— Los Angeles News Now (@lanewsnow) July 2, 2015
Although Naegleria fowleri naturally occur in warm freshwater, they can contaminate swimming pools and water supplies that are not properly treated.
Brain-eating amoeba are incredibly rare. However, those who swim in warm freshwater need to be aware of the potential risks and ways to prevent infection.
[Image via Wikimedia]