Weekend Alert to Water Sports Enthusiasts: Beware of Brain Infecting Ameba

by OldSailor on June 7, 2008

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Here is weekend alert to water sports enthusiasts. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dated May 30, from Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) gives a warning note to water sports enthusiasts. Six cases of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) were reported to CDC in the United States during June to September in the year 2007. All six patients unfortunately died.

What was the reason for these deaths ?

All the six from Arizona (1), Florida (3), and Texas (2) were the victims of brain infecting ameba called Naegleria fowleri or N. fowleri. All the victims were found to be recreational water sports enthusiasts in swimming, wakeboarding, diving.

Here are alarming features of Naegleria fowleri:

  • Naegleria is an ameba that thrives in warm freshwater and soil. Naegleria fowleri which belongs to this species of Naegleria, infects people.
  • it causes a very rare but severe brain infection that causes death.
  • while in water, the ameba enters through the nose to reach the brain and spinal cord to cause infection.
  • initial symptoms found within 14 days of infection: headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck.
  • later symptoms: confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations.
  • causes death within 3 to 7 days after the start of symptoms.

As Naegleria fowleri is found only in warm freshwater, water sports enthusiasts in lakes, swimming pools, rivers have to be careful. As sea water is not having this ameba, water sports in beaches are safe.

Here are the precautionary measures to be taken to avoid Naegleria fowleri infection:

  • keep your nose water tight or use nose clips while sporting in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
  • do not dig in or stir up the sediment if you are in shallow, warm freshwater bodies.

The foolproof way to avoid this infection is to refrain from water related activities

  • in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs.
  • thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
  • during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.

If you want to know more about Naegleria Infection, here is the fact sheet.

Here is the full report of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dated May 30 from CDC.

Here is an interesting video clip of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM).

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