The Costa Rican Ministry of Health is requesting a hotel in the north where there are hot springs, to warn swimmers about the presence of a dangerous amoeba, Naegleria fowleri,  in its waters. This follows the July death of an 11-year-old Florida boy ,  Jordan Smelski who contracted the deadly parasite while vacationing in the Central American country.


Costa Rica /CIA
Costa Rica /CIA

According to a La Nacion report today (computer translated)Mary Ethel Trejos, responsible for Health Surveillance said the place where the American family stayed (in La Fortuna de San Carlos) had the presence of the Naegleria amoebae in hot springs. She says it was not found swimming pools, showers or other water sources. Trejos notes that the University of Costa Rica will be testing other water sites for the amoeba.

Naegleria fowleri  is a microscopic amoeba which is a single-celled living organism. It can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals. Infections can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM (which destroys brain tissue) and is usually fatal. Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare. Most  infections occur from exposure to contaminated recreational water. Cases due to the use of neti pots and the practice of ablution have been documented. You cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water and the amoeba is not found in salt water.

The practice of ablution is included in Yogic, Ayurvedic, and Islamic traditions. Within the Islamic faith, ritual nasal rinsing is included in a cleansing process called “wudu” or “ablution.” It is usually performed several times a day in preparation for prayer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Initial symptoms of PAM usually start within 1 to 7 days after infection. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Other symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, loss ofbalance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly.  For more infectious disease news and informationvisit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

According to the CDC in the past 50 years alone there have been 134 deaths from this microbe in the United States, for although the presence of amoeba is common, the risk of infection is “unusual.”