A deadly parasite could be lurking in freshwater lakes and rivers across America this summer that quickly affects the brain — and experts warn that if it gets up your nose, it has a 97 percent chance of being fatal, often within five days. feel after symptoms.
Naegleria fowleri lives in freshwater around the world. It thrives in warmer temperatures of about 115 degrees Fahrenheit, with cases usually occurring during the summer months. This means that lakes and rivers around America are at risk of carrying the dangerous organisms. Even splash parks can pose a risk: A three-year-old from Texas died last year after being exposed to it at a local splash park.
Contaminated water taken through the nose gives the amoeba a direct route to the brain, where it is almost always fatal, but ingesting contaminated water causes no harm because stomach acid is strong enough to kill the bacteria, a parasitic disease told expert to DailyMail.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 154 known cases of infection in the past 60 years — with nearly all in southern states reaching boiling temperatures in the summer. All but four cases resulted in death — a survival rate of just three percent. These cases are particularly clustered in Texas and Florida, which have recorded 40 and 36 infections, respectively, since 1962 when the CDC began tracking cases.
Two cases have already been discovered this year, including a Missouri man who died after becoming infected in an Iowa lake, and a Florida teen who had to fight for his life after swimming in a local river.
After a person is exposed to the amoeba, they will likely feel symptoms such as headache, nausea, and fatigue within the next one to nine days. Once symptoms begin, death will almost always occur within five days.
dr. Anjan Debnath, a parasitic disease expert at the University of California, San Diego, tells DailyMail.com that because of its rarity, doctors also often misdiagnose symptoms as meningitis, wasting precious time that could be used to treat the parasite. to deal with.
Cases aren’t just reserved for lakes and rivers. Improper water treatment in swimming pools, private ponds and even tap water can also lead to lethal exposure to the amoeba – causing multiple deaths among children in recent years.
Debnath, a parasitic disease expert at the University of California, San Diego, said the amoeba thrives in temperatures around 115 Fahrenheit, meaning it will be most active on the hottest summer days in states where high temperatures are not uncommon.
He explained that it enters through the olfactory nerve of the nose, giving it a short and direct route to the brain. If water containing the amoeba gets into the nose, it is likely to lead to an infection.
Taking water by mouth is okay, though, because stomach acid is strong enough to kill the amoeba.
Once a person’s olfactory nerve is exposed, it can take about one to nine days for them to start experiencing symptoms. They usually die within five days of symptoms first appearing.
dr. Anjan Debnath (pictured), a parasitic disease expert at the University of California, San Diego, told the DailyMail.com that people should avoid swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers this summer, and if they do, they should use a nasal plug to to stop water entering
‘It’s going pretty fast, it’s very progressive. It literally eats up the brain tissue’, explains Debnath.
He describes the infection in two stages. The first is relatively minor, with the person experiencing headaches and other flu-like symptoms. This means that unless a doctor knows that a person has been swimming in untreated water, they may not even suspect the amoeba.
Once the symptoms reach the second stage, a person will develop serious neurological problems, such as seizures. A doctor will then likely find out about the infection through a spinal fluid test.
At that point, a person has likely already experienced symptoms so severe that death is almost guaranteed.
A similar situation arose with Caleb Ziegelbauer, 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida.
The teen swam in a river near his home on July 1 for a family outing to escape the Florida heat. When he was sick, doctors first diagnosed him with meningitis — delaying the time it took to be treated for the infection.
Five days later, Caleb developed a fever and complained of hallucinations. His parents rushed him to the hospital in Fort Myers, where doctors diagnosed him with meningitis in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the amoeba Naegleria fowleri is responsible for its disease,” Katie Chiet, the boy’s aunt, said on his crowdfunding page.
More than a week after he was hospitalized, doctors finally realized he was suffering from the 97 percent deadly parasite.
“They plan to re-intubate him to relieve some pressure on his breathing so he can focus on resting and healing his brain,” Elizabeth Ziegelbauer wrote on GoFundme.
The inflammation in his brain has gotten worse. Normally, the parasite kills its host within 17 days, but Caleb survived 11 days after that.
Caleb Ziegelbauer (pictured), 13, of Port Charlotte, Florida, is currently fighting for his life in hospital after contracting an infection from the brain-eating amoeba
Ziegelbauer is the second confirmed case of the brain eating amoeba and causing infection in the United States this year.
Early this month, an unnamed Missouri man was infected while swimming in the lake at Lake of the Three Fires State Park in Iowa. In response, health officials have closed the beach.
While these cases are rare, with fewer than three detections a year on average, Debnath still advises against swimming in untreated water in the summer, especially in places like Florida and Texas where temperatures get exceptionally hot.
Since the amoeba only lives in fresh water, swimming in the ocean is generally safe.
If families choose to visit a freshwater beach, anyone entering the water should wear a nose clip to prevent water from getting into their noses.
Debnath also recommends that you don’t kick up dirt or sand from the bottom of the lake, as the microscopic creatures are usually in warmer areas.
Cases are also not always spawned from freshwater lakes and rivers. In 2020, a six year old boy died in Texas after being exposed through the water supply in his hometown of Lake Jackson.
Last year, a three-year-old child in the state died after exposure to the brain eating amoeba at a splash park. His family later sued for negligence, saying operators should have been more careful to purify the water.
A North Carolina child, whose age was not revealed, died last year after being exposed to a… private pond not properly disinfected.
Debnath said these cases could have been prevented with proper chlorination and purification of the sitting water alone.