By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
North Carolina state and Cumberland County health officials are reporting a death due a confirmed Naegleria fowleri, or “brain-eating amoeba” infection.
According to health officials, the individual became ill after swimming in Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County on July 12, 2019.
Local health officials are working with the water park to provide guidance and education about the presence of Naegleria fowleri and how to take precautions when in natural bodies of freshwater.
“Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D. “People should be aware that this organism is present in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs across North Carolina, so be mindful as you swim or enjoy water sports.”
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.
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 of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly.
Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with only 145 known infected individuals in the U.S. (between zero and eight cases annually) from 1962 through 2018. North Carolina had five cases during that time period.