It’s the summer and all many of us crave to take a vacation and travel to the lake, or grab our tubes and go floating down the river while sipping a cold one and enjoying the company of our friends. Doesn’t that sound so ideal right now? You might want to think twice before you say yes, especially in certain areas of the United States. Over the last few years, we’ve read about several cases involving a brain-eating amoeba in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Virginia, to name a few places. Now, it appears the microscopic amoeba has struck again!
Scene of the death: Minnesota
This week, a teenage boy in Minnesota became devastatingly ill after going for a swim in a nearby lake. Sadly, he boy did not survive. It was reported that he suffered from Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is caused by a brain-eating amoeba entering the brain and taking up residence there. According to the CDC, up to eight people a year contract this infection, typically in the summer months when the water is warmer. This case makes only 3 total cases ever reported in more northern states, due to the cooler water conditions.
What Is the Brain-Eating Amoeba?
Formally known to scientists as Naegleria fowleri, this amoeba’s nickname explains it very well. This organism is known to cause a rare and destructive infection in the brain, and it is commonly found in lake waters, rivers, and hot springs (warm, freshwater areas.) The amoeba typically enters the brain through the nose, so it is not common for a person to contract the amoeba by drinking contaminated water. It’s rare that the amoeba is found in pools or tap water; however, there have been a few cases reported where the amoeba was acquired through those water sources.
What Are the Symptoms That this Amoeba Might Cause?
PAM is a disease of the central nervous system, and is almost always fatal. According to the CDC, there are only 4 known North American survivors. If contracted, you may experience severe headaches, usually in the frontal region, fever, nausea, vomiting, seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations, and possibly coma.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether the water you are about to take a dive into is carrying this brain-eating amoeba, and there aren’t many precautions you can take to prevent you from contracting the infection. However, you can take comfort in the fact that these infections are incredibly rare. The CDC tells us that from 2005 to 2014, only 35 infections were reported, so the odds are certainly in your favor!