Are you aware of the “brain-eating amoeba”? You may have heard about them in the news recently, or even seen them in horror films.
This parasitic microorganism is found in standing bodies of warm water like rivers and lakes, as well as swimming pools, hot tubs, and saunas. It can enter your body through contact with these sources of water, usually through your nose.
These amoebas are most common during the summertime when the temperature is high, although they can cause infection at any time of the year. Brain eating amoebas can cause an infection called primary amoebic electroencephalograms (PAM), which is a rare but deadly disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
In this article, we will discuss the facts about brain-eating amoebas from Florida to Iowa and how to keep you safe from this dangerous parasite.
What Is a Brain Eating Amoeba?
Brain Eating Amoebas—that sounds scary, right? They are, but they’re also very rare. Brain Eating Amoebas (also known as Naegleria Fowleri) are single-celled organisms found in hot springs and natural bodies of fresh water. They can even survive in poorly maintained swimming pools or contaminated tap water.
The amoeba usually enters the body through the nose where it then travels up to the brain where it feeds off of nervous tissue and other brain cells, hence the “brain-eating” name. It is important to be aware that this form of amoeba only affects those who are swimming or diving in contaminated waters and is not contagious through contact with another person.
While the odds of coming into contact with a Brain Eating Amoeba may be rare, they exist across much of the United States and have been reported in Florida, Iowa, Texas, and other states as well. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and stiff neck tend to appear within a week of exposure so it is important to be aware if you have recently gone swimming or diving in a natural body of freshwater.
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How Could You Get Infected?
Brain eating amoebas are usually found in warm bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds, rivers and hot springs. The most common type of amoeba is Naegleria fowleri. It can also be found in soil, public pools and untreated water supplies.
Naegleria fowleri is not spread from person-to-person contact and can only be contracted if contaminated water enters your nose. It then travels up the nasal passage to the brain where it begins to feed on brain tissue. This type of infection is rare and the occurrence of infection depends on factors such as temperature, pH balance and the presence of other organisms living in the water.
To reduce your risk of an infection, avoid swimming or diving in bodies of warm freshwater or hot springs that may contain Naegleria fowleri. Additionally, hold your nose shut while swimming in any body of water and use nose clips so that contaminated water does not enter your body through your nose.
Symptoms of Naegleria Fowleri
If you have been exposed to the brain eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, it’s important that you are aware of the symptoms. Signs of infection include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, seizures and altered mental state. In some cases, a rash may also appear.
It is worth noting that early symptoms may mimic those of bacterial meningitis, including severe headaches and a stiff neck so it’s important to be aware that Naegleria Fowleri may be the cause of your symptoms.
In rare cases, the infection can be fatal if left untreated so if you notice any signs of infection, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. It is estimated that only 4% of people who develop primary amoebic meningoencephalitis survive.
Brain Eating Amoebas in Iowa and Florida
Brain-eating amoebas are an often-overlooked danger in both Iowa and Florida. The two states have the most reported cases of amebic encephalitis in the United States, but they both have different means of exposure to the deadly amoeba.
In Florida, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is found in warm freshwater pools, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. This amoeba is often fatal when it enters through a person’s nostrils into the brain.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, the primary source of exposure to brain eating amoebas is swimming pools that are not chlorinated enough or properly cleaned. The presence of water in a less-than-optimal environment can create a hospitable environment for these dangerous single-celled organisms.
For this reason, it’s important for all pool owners (especially public pools) to keep their chlorine levels regularly checked and maintain a cleaning schedule that keeps their pool free from contaminants like brain eating amoebas. By taking these precautionary measures, swimmers can enjoy their time at the pool without ever having to worry about coming into contact with these dangerous parasites.
Prevention and Treatment of Naegleria Fowleri
Naegleria Fowleri is an incredibly virulent microorganism, yet there are ways to prevent being infected and, if necessary, treat it.
The best way to avoid the dangers of Naegleria Fowleri is to avoid activities that are commonly associated with contamination such as swimming in warm or hot bodies of water like lakes and rivers. Also, use nose clips when swimming to keep water out of the nose, avoid swimming in stagnant water bodies, holding your breath underwater for too long, or submerging your head below the surface of warm waters.
In cases where a person has been infected with Naegleria Fowleri, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The first line of treatment is usually a combination of two drugs: amphotericin B and miltefosine. In some cases, these drugs have been shown to be effective in fighting off infections caused by Naegleria Fowleri; however, they can also cause severe side effects and be quite expensive. Additionally, if a patient has developed meningoencephalitis due to infection with Naegleria fowleri , more aggressive treatments may be necessary.
Potential Future Outbreaks of Naegleria Fowleri
Amoebic encephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri has been identified in countries all over the world including the United States. In the United States, cases have been reported in states such as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, California and Iowa. With more outbreaks occurring every year, experts are warning that potential future outbreaks could occur in states with similar climates and geography.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends avoiding activities such as swimming or diving in bodies of warm freshwater and using properly functioning filtration systems for swimming pools or spas. They also advise people to avoid contact with soil or water from other sources such as geothermal springs and lakes.
By taking precautions to avoid contact with warm freshwater bodies and acting quickly if someone does come into contact with them, individuals can help to reduce their risk of contracting this deadly infection. It is also important to remember that Naegleria fowleri infections can be deadly if not treated quickly so recognizing the signs of infection early is key to surviving this potentially deadly disease.
In summary, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers of the brain eating amoeba, especially for those swimming in hot springs, treat ponds, and other natural waterways. Taking simple steps like wearing nose plugs and avoiding water with a high temperature can help protect against contracting this amoeba. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the potential for this amoeba to be present in other areas like Iowa, even if the risk is low.
It’s also important to recognize that the cases of infection are fairly rare and that there are protective steps people can take when swimming in any body of water. While the brain eating amoeba is a scary thought, with proper precautions and knowledge, people can have a fun and safe time in the water.