It sound like the plot of a Goosebumps book: a 12-year-old girl is in critical condition after she contacted a brain-eating amoeba while swimming in a lake. The young girl has since been diagnosed with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an incredibly rare form of meningitis caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. While a brave girl fights for her life, millions wonder the same question:
Could this brain-eating amoeba get me?
The Naegleria fowleri is primarily contacted by humans in fresh-water lakes, and is only dangerous when inhaled through the nose. When the amoeba does infect a human host, however, it is extremely deadly; only one person out of 128 has survived the infection since it was first reported in 1962. Death usually occurs within five days of the infection’s onset. The amoeba traverses the nasal cavity into the brain where it feeds off the brain’s inner material. Fever, nausea, and vomiting soon lead to seizures, hallucinations, and ultimately death.
The lake in which the young girl contacted the brain-eating parasite has been closed indefinitely under fear that other swimmers could contact the disease.
It seems brain-eating amoebas are a real threat to swimmers, but there are methods to stay safe. Dirk Haselow of the Arkansas Department of Health said, “If concerned about Naegleria, avoid swimming, diving or other activities that push water up the nose, especially in natural waters when temperatures are high and water levels are low.”
There’s yet another reason to stay out of the water this season. Keep you and your’s safe: say no to fresh-water swimming.