Amoeba Kills Swimmer: Oklahoma Man Dies Days After State Park Visit

A brain-eating amoeba killed a swimmer who had visited Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma. The victim contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis shortly after swimming in a lake at the park last week.

According to KXII, the victim had been camping at the Ski Jump campground and was in the lake recently. He contracted PAM, a rare but typically deadly disease that is caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. This amoeba is often called the “brain-eating amoeba.”

USA Today details that the swimmer killed by the amoeba has not yet been identified. The Oklahoma State Department confirmed his death and the link to PAM.

The organism is typically found in fresh bodies of water, particularly during the hot summer months. PAM is mostly found in southwestern or southern states, though cases have occurred in more northern states as well.

Those affected by Naegleria fowleri often experience headaches, chills, nausea, vomiting, and a fever, much like the symptoms seen with bacterial meningitis. Later symptoms may include seizures, a stiff neck, hallucinations, and a coma.

The amoeba usually enters a person after they dive or jump into the water, as the organism gets to the brain through the nasal cavity. The water needs to travel up the victim’s nose, and PAM is almost always fatal.

Experts warn that those swimming in lakes and rivers should be cautious of stagnant water that is green and cloudy, has a lot of algae, or has a foul odor. There should not be any danger with PAM in pools that are regularly maintained, however, due to the chlorine used.

Infectious diseases specialist Jessica Sheehy from Mayo Clinic Health System shared with USA Today that patients typically only survive a few days once the PAM symptoms start. Most victims experience issues within a couple of weeks of being in the lake or river.

According to WQAD, the unidentified swimmer had been at Lake Murray last week and died at an Oklahoma City hospital on Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that typically there are just a handful of PAM cases a year. Oklahoma has had just seven cases since 1998.

Those swimming in rivers and lakes should always take care to swim only in designated areas and take caution to observe the state of the water. Though the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is commonly found in the water, cases of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis are quite rare, but patients rarely survive once infected.

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