Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism sometimes found in warm freshwater that can sometimes cause a fatal infection that attacks the brain.
Here are some tips on how to avoid exposure to the brain-eating amoeba and what to do if you think you may have been exposed.
What is the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria fowleri typically enters the nose and is found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, hot springs, poorly maintained pools and warm water discharge from industrial plants.
The amoeba can enter the brain through the nose and start eating away at brain tissue. This results in a rare and fatal condition called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The infection can lead to death within days.
There are some steps that you can take to avoid exposure to Naegleria fowleri, as well as any other harmful amoebas:
- If you swim in warm freshwater lakes, avoid putting your head underwater.
- Use nose plugs or a face mask when swimming.
- Do not allow water from warm lakes or hot springs to enter your nose.
- Avoid using contaminated water to irrigate your nose when nasal rinsing or using a neti pot.
- Avoid contact with soil or mud that may be contaminated with the brain-eating amoeba.
Infections may also occur from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pools.)
In 2021, child died after being infected with the rare brain-eating amoeba that was found at a Texas splash pad. A review discovered lapses in water-quality testing at several parks, according to The Associated Press.
According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri has not been shown to spread via water vapor or aerosol droplets (such as shower mist or vapor from a humidifier). It’s also not found in salt water, like the ocean.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has contracted Naegleria fowleri, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Early symptoms are often similar to a bacterial meningitis infection:
- Stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light
Symptoms can progress rapidly, and a person may experience:
- Severe headache
- High fever
While infection with Naegleria fowleri is rare, the CDC says if someone has been infected, they should seek medical help immediately.
More facts about Naegleria fowleri can be found here:
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