Missouri Swimmer is Diagnosed With a Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba

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Missouri resident was admitted to intensive care for a rare brain-eating disease. Officials believe they were swimming in an Iowa lake when they became infected. 

As a precautionary measure to prevent a confirmed Naegleria fowleri infection, the Taylor County Department of Health and Human Services closed the beach at Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County temporarily on FridayIn a statement

“Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled free-living amoeba that can cause a rare life-threatening infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis,”The health department noted that the PAM is the correct spelling. They are currently testing the lake where the Missouri resident swam to see if there is amoeba.  

“Testing … is being conducted in conjunction with the CDC and could take several days to complete,”The health department wrote. 

Naegleria fowleri can be found in warm, freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. People are infected when amoeba-containing water enters their bodies through the nose. It then travels into the brain and damages the brain tissue. “This infection cannot be spread from one person to another, and it cannot be contracted by swallowing contaminated water,”The health department wrote.

It is very rare to find PAM. There have been only 154 cases in the U.S., since 1962. Authorities said there are no additional cases of PAM in Missouri or Iowa. This case is thought to be the first one in Iowa. The condition is rare but extremely dangerous. Only four of the 154 infected Americans from 1962 to 2021 were able to survive. 

“It’s the worst parasite in the world that we know of because it causes such devastating pathology,”Christopher Rice is a researcher at the University of Georgia’s Center for Drug Discovery.CBS. A sample of cerebral spinal fluid is needed to confirm a person has been infected with the parasite, he said, noting it is a difficult condition to diagnose. 

“While this infection is extremely rare in the United States, people who experience the following symptoms after swimming in any warm body of water should contact their health care provider immediately,” the health department wrote, listing severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck as symptoms of which to be aware.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that symptoms may progress to include hallucinations, seizures, altered mental state, and coma. The CDC states that symptoms usually appear within one to nine working days of being infected. Most people die within one to 18 days of onset of symptoms. 

“Overall, the outlook for people who get this disease is poor, although early diagnosis and new treatments might increase the chances for survival,”The CDC states.