NewsDesk @bactiman63

The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today the death of a woman in her 30s from the brain eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.

Image/Robert Herriman

She had no recent travel history abroad and had traveled to recreation in an indoor water facility.

On July 26, 2023, she presented with headache and shoulder and neck stiffness symptoms. Later, fever, chills, headache, neck pain and convulsions occurred. The subsequent course of disease progressed rapidly and she died on August 1. The diagnosis and treatment hospital reported encephalitis of unknown cause, collected specimens and sent them to the CDC laboratory for testing, and confirmed that it was meningoencephalitis caused by “Naegleria fowleri” infection.

The local health unit has reported Indoor hydrophilic facilities conduct environmental inspections to clarify the source of infection, and in accordance with Article 21 of the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, the operators are requested to preventively suspend business and conduct environmental cleaning.

There are about 10 cases in Pakistan every year, and about 5 cases in the United States every year. , mostly in July-August, the United States has accumulated 157 cases from 1962 to 2022, and there have been sporadic cases of infection in Thailand and this year in India in the past (2022).

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.

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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.