America’s freshwater lakes and rivers may be harboring a deadly brain-eating parasite this summer, and experts warn there is a 97 percent chance of death if it gets into the nose, often within five days. sensory symptoms.
Naegleria fowleri lives in freshwater around the world. It thrives in warm temperatures around 115 degrees, which usually occurs during the summer months. This means that lakes and rivers around America are at risk of harboring dangerous organisms. Even splash parks can be dangerous: A three-year-old boy in Texas died last year after a splash park accident.
Contaminated amoeba swallowed through the nose can travel straight to the brain, where it almost always kills, but swallowing contaminated water does no harm because the stomach acid in the water is strong enough to kill the bacteria, a parasite expert told DailyMail.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there have been 154 known cases of the infection over the past 60 years—almost all of them in southern states that reach hot summer temperatures. All but four of those resulted in death – a survival rate of only three percent. The cases are concentrated in Texas and Florida, which have reported 40 and 36 infections since the CDC began tracking cases in 1962, respectively.
Two cases have been identified this year, including a Missouri man who died after contracting the infection in an Iowa lake and a Florida teenager who was fighting for his life after swimming in a local river.
After exposure to the amoeba, a person experiences symptoms such as headache, nausea, and fatigue for the next one to nine days. After the onset of symptoms, death usually occurs within five days.
Dr. Anjan Debnath, a parasite expert at the University of California, San Diego, told DailyMail.com that because of how rare it is, doctors often misdiagnose the symptoms of meningitis – wasting valuable time that could be used to treat the parasites.
Things aren’t just for lakes and rivers. Improper treatment of water in swimming pools, private ponds and even taps can lead to deadly amoeba – causing many deaths in children in recent years.
Debnath, a parasite expert at the University of California, San Diego, said the amoeba thrives in temperatures around 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making it active during the hottest days of the summer in states where high temperatures are not uncommon.
He explained that the olfactory nerve in the nose has a short and direct path to the brain. If water containing amoeba gets into the nose, it can cause an infection.
Swallowing water by mouth is fine, but stomach acid is strong enough to kill the amoeba.
After a person’s olfactory nerves are exposed, it can take anywhere from one to nine days for symptoms to begin to appear. They usually die within five days of first appearing.
Dr Anjan Debnath (pictured), a parasite expert at the University of California, San Diego, told DailyMail.com that people should avoid swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers this summer and stop using nasal plugs if they do. water does not enter
“It’s very fast, very progressive. It literally eats away brain tissue,” Debnath explained.
He characterizes the infection in two stages. The first is relatively minor, a person has a headache and other flu-like symptoms. This means that a doctor may not suspect an amoeba unless he knows that the person has been swimming in untreated water.
When the symptoms reach the second stage, the person experiences severe neurological problems such as seizures. A doctor will likely find out about an infection by testing the cerebrospinal fluid.
In this case, the person probably experienced such severe symptoms that death was guaranteed.
A similar situation happened to 13-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer of Port Charlotte, Florida.
The teenager was swimming in a river near her home on July 1 to escape the Florida heat. While he was sick, doctors first diagnosed him with meningitis – which delayed treatment for the infection.
Five days later, Caleb developed a fever and complained of hallucinations. His parents rushed him to a hospital in Fort Myers, where doctors diagnosed him with meningitis in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“Unfortunately, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri appears to be responsible for his illness,” the boy’s aunt, Cathy Chiet, said on her crowdfunding page.
More than a week after he entered the hospital, doctors realized he was suffering from a parasite that is 97 percent fatal.
Elizabeth Ziegelbauer wrote on the GoFundme: “They plan to re-intubate him to slow down his breathing so he can just focus on resting and healing his brain.”
The inflammation in his brain got worse and worse. Normally, the parasite kills its host within 17 days, but Caleb survived 11 days later.
Caleb Ziegelbauer (pictured), a 13-year-old in Port Charlotte, Florida, is fighting for his life after being hospitalized after contracting an infection from a brain eaten by an amoeba.
Ziegelbauer is the second confirmed case of the brain-eating amoeba causing infection in the United States this year.
Earlier this month, an unnamed Missouri man was infected while swimming in a lake at Three Fires Lake State Park in Iowa. In response, health officials closed the beach.
Although such cases are rare, averaging at least three per year, Debnath still advises against swimming in untreated water during the summer, especially in places like Florida and Texas where temperatures are extremely high.
Since amoebas only live in fresh water, swimming in the ocean is generally safe.
If families choose to go to a freshwater beach, everyone entering the water should wear a nose mask to keep water out of their noses.
Debnat also recommends not kicking up dirt or sand from the bottom of the lake, as microscopic creatures often live in the depths of warm areas.
Diseases do not always come from freshwater lakes and rivers. In 2020, a six-year-old boy in Texas died after being hit by a water pipe in his hometown of Lake Jackson.
Last year, a three-year-old boy in the state died after eating an amoeba at a splash park. His family later sued for negligence, saying the operators should have taken better care of the water treatment.
An unidentified boy in North Carolina died last year after falling into an improperly cleaned private pool.
According to Debnath, these cases can only be avoided by proper chlorination and sanitation of planted water.