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Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Case In Florida Prompts Warning From Health Officials

Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Case In Florida Prompts Warning From Health Officials

Health officials in Florida, USA, have issued a warning after a person contracted a rare brain-eating amoeba.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) confirmed one person in Hillsborough County had been infected with Naegleria fowleri.

The amoeba causes an infection which is usually fatal. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The amoeba causes an infection which is usually fatal. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The microscopic single-celled parasite is found in warm freshwater and enters through the nose. From there, it travels to the brain where it causes an infection which is usually fatal. Indeed, of the 143 confirmed cases of the disease in the country between 1962 and 2016, only four have survived.

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People who are infected by the amoeba suffer symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck and headaches, typically dying within a week.

The condition of the most recent case is unclear; it is also not known where exactly they were infected.

The DOH said: "The amoeba can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal. The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.

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"Infections usually occur when temperatures increase for a prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

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"Though there are only 37 reported cases with exposure in Florida since 1962, DOH cautions those who swim and dive frequently in Florida's lakes, rivers and ponds during warm temperatures about the possible presence of Naegleria fowleri."

People should wear nose clips when taking part in freshwater activities in Florida. Credit: PA
People should wear nose clips when taking part in freshwater activities in Florida. Credit: PA

While the likelihood of being infected by the amoeba is very low, the ramifications if you are could hardly be more severe. As such, the DOH has issued the following precautionary guidelines:

  • Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
  • Exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses of cold/allergy-related congestion or conducting religious rituals with tap water. Use only boiled and cooled, distilled, or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.
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Anyone who experiences any of symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations after swimming in warm water in Florida should seek medical attention immediately.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Topics: US News, Health

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Jake Massey

Jake Massey is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from Newcastle University, where he learnt a bit about media and a lot about living without heating. After spending a few years in Australia and New Zealand, Jake secured a role at an obscure radio station in Norwich, inadvertently becoming a real-life Alan Partridge in the process. From there, Jake became a reporter at the Eastern Daily Press. Jake enjoys playing football, listening to music and writing about himself in the third person.