What is the brain-eating amoeba?


DEADLY brain infections occur when an individual is afflicted by the parasitic amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

Commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” Naegleria fowleri is a parasite that can burn through a person and kill them in under two weeks.

What is brain-eating amoeba?

Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is a free-living microscopic amoeba that can cause a devastating brain disease.

The parasite enters through the nose and into the brain where it turns into Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a disease of the central nervous system.

According to the CDC, the parasite is commonly found in warm freshwater (e.g. lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and soil.

The parasite, when it enters the body, is typically fatal.

Children and younger people are believed to be more at risk.

What are the symptoms of brain-eating amoeba?

The infection commonly occurs when people go swimming or diving in fresh, warm water places such as lakes or rivers.

In rare cases, infections can occur from swimming in poorly chlorinated pools and consuming contaminated tap water.

Symptoms of contracting Naegleria fowleri present themselves in stages.

Stage one includes:

  • severe frontal headache
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting.

The symptoms of stage two are:

  • a stiff neck
  • seizures
  • altered mental status
  • hallucinations
  • a possible coma.

What states have brain-eating amoeba?

Brain-eating amoebas have recently been found in eight coastal Texas cities southwest of Houston, as well as northern Florida.

Tests confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri in the public water system in the Texas town of Lake Jackson as residents were urged not to drink from their taps.

Other Texas areas such as Freeport, Angleton, Brazoria, Richwood, Oyster Creek, Clute, and Rosenberg were warned along with Lake Jackson.

Josiah McIntyre was killed at the age of six after Texan authorities declared a disaster after finding traces of the deadly amoeba in the water supply.

Josiah died after he had played at the civic center splash pad and with the hose in the family garden in late August 2020

In North Florida, Tanner Lake Wall, 13, was on vacation with his friends and family at a campground when he got sick. 

Wall became ill after two days of swimming and died on August 2, 2020.

“Nausea, vomiting, pretty bad headaches,” his father Travis Wall told News4Jax of the symptoms. 

Similarly, an elderly gentleman in Georgia died after the shape-shifting amoeba turned his brain “into mushy liquid.”

On July 7, 2022, the Iowa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announced they were testing the Lake of Three Fires for the aforementioned parasite.

The announcement came on the heels of a Missouri resident who was revealed to be infected with Naegleria fowleri.

In order to avoid infection while in the area, health officials provided ways to avoid infection by:

  • Holding your nose shut, use nose clips
  • Keep your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature.
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

How common are brain-eating amoebas?

From 1962 to 2018, there were only 145 people known to have contracted the amoeba – with only four of them surviving.

Infections are rare in the US, with 34 cases reported between 2009 and 2018.

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