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What is Naegleria fowleri?

Before you take the kids and try to cool off this summer at the lake in your town, you should know about Naegleria fowleri.

brain-eating amoeba

Naegleri fowleri Image/CDC

This relatively rare, pathogenic amoeba is found in warm or hot freshwater like lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is also possible to get it from dirty unchlorinated or under-chlorinated swimming pools. This parasite is found worldwide and in the United States, it is found in mainly in the southern-tier states.

Naegleria fowleri  is a single celled, free-living amoeba. It is also called the “brain-eating amoeba”.

People typically contract this parasite when contaminated water rushes up the nose when jumping into the water. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). From here it destroys brain tissue with a fatality rate of well over 99 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), initial symptoms of PAM start about 5 days (range 1 to 7 days) after infection. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days (range 1 to 12 days).

It is a rather rare infections with some 128 known cases recorded in the US since 1962; however, there is only one known survivor. And in the one survivor, it has been suggested that the survivor’s strain of Naegleria fowleri was less virulent.

Treatment for this parasite has been unsatisfactory.

You should always assume there is some risk when swimming in freshwater. The location and number of amoeba present in a body of water varies from time to time. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends these four steps to reduce your risk of infection:

• 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.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Katie Couric to feature Naegleria survivor, Kali Hardig in October - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] hearts of people across the country being the third known survivor of the 99%-plus lethal amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, will be featured on an upcoming episode of “Katie” with Katie […]

  2. Parasitic meningitis, caused by Naegleria fowleri, confirmed in Arkansas girl - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] More about Naegleria fowleri […]

  3. Louisiana recommends increasing chlorine levels as citizens petition for safe water - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] What is Naegleria fowleri? […]

  4. CDC: DeSoto Parish water tests negative for Naegleria after uping chlorine levels - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Louisiana officials raised the chlorine levels in the DeSoto Parish water system after the ameba, Naegleria fowleri was discovered in the water, the state Department of Health and Hospitals reported Wednesday that […]

  5. Pakistan reports Naegleria fowleri death in Karachi man - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] What is Naegleria fowleri? […]

  6. Pakistan reports Naegleria fowleri death in Karachi man | Outbreak News Today says:

    […] What is Naegleria fowleri? […]

  7. Man contracts ‘brain-eating ameba’ via ritual nasal rinsing in US Virgin Islands: Case study - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) after contracting the free-living thermophilic ameba, Naegleria fowleri. This was the first case and death due to the “brain-eating ameba” in the US territory, […]

  8. Louisiana to raise chlorine levels in drinking water in response to finding Naegleria fowleri in water system - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Prior to the Emergency Rule, Louisiana’s regulations, which were implemented in 1995 in accordance with federal guidance, stipulated that drinking water systems were required to have a “trace” or “detectable” level of free chlorine residual at all points of their system at all times. Under the new rule, drinking water systems must have a minimum disinfectant residual level of 0.5 milligrams per liter throughout all of their distribution lines. This 0.5 mg/L level is known to control the Naegleria fowleri ameba. […]

  9. Naegleria fowleri and amoeba awareness: Personal stories and the great work ... - The Global Dispatch | Mash Mush says:

    […] meningitis and now dedicate so much of their time and energy to bringing awareness to others about Naegleria fowleri (Listen […]

  10. Louisiana: CDC confirms Naegleria in St. Bernard Parish water system, advisory issued - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed the presence of the rare ameba, Naegleria fowleri in four locations of the St. Bernard Parish water system, the Louisiana Department of Health and […]

  11. Louisiana ‘brain-eating amoeba’ death linked to water at St. Bernard Parish home - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] child who died from encephalitis caused by the pathogenic amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, while visiting a home in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, has been linked to water at the home, […]

  12. Naegleria fowleri survivor, Kali Hardig, walks, swings bat and throws basketball - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] What is Naegleria fowleri? […]

  13. Kali Hardig’s condition continues to improve, expected to leave ICU tomorrow - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] More than two weeks ago, Kali was diagnosed with parasitic meningitis, an extremely lethal infection caused by the free-living amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. […]

  14. Arkansas girl, Kali Hardig making great progress in her recovery, What is this experimental anti-amoeba drug? - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] The news out of Arkansas about the condition of 12-year-old Kali Hardig has been remarkable to say the least. Approximately two weeks ago, Kali was diagnosed with the nearly 100% fatal “brain-eating amoeba”, Naegleria fowleri. […]

  15. DANGER Brain-Eating Parasite Flourishes in Climate-Warmed Waters | Philippine Thoughts says:

    […] What is Naegleria fowleri? (theglobaldispatch.com) […]

  16. Arkansas reports sixth case of parasitic meningitis in four decades, Willow Springs Water Park the likely source - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Read more about Naegleria fowleri […]

  17. What is Naegleria fowleri? | biblebabe778's Blog says:

    […] http://www.theglobaldispatch.com/what-is-naegleria-fowleri-69349/ […]

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