Naegleria Fowleri-The Killer Amoeba
Three young people have died this summer due to infections from a deadly single-celled amoeba that made its way into their noses and destroyed their brain tissue. The culprit, Naegleria fowleri, burrows into the skull of its victims and eats away at their brains, quickly causing coma and death.
Symptoms begin to appear 1-7 days after infection. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and causes death within 1 to 12 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the signs/symptoms of Naegleria fowleri infection are similar to those of meningitis, and include:
- loss of balance
There have been 120 cases of Naegleria fowleri infection reported since 1960; only one person has been known to have survived. Of the three victims this summer, two were infected after swimming in infested water and the third was infected from flushing his nose with contaminated tap water. The victims were ages 9, 16, and 20.
The amoeba enters the body through the nose, and so any way to avoid getting water in the nose can decrease the chances of infection. Other preventative measures include:
- Avoid swimming in any body of freshwater if possible
- Avoid shallow water that has been thoroughly heated by the sun
- Plug your nose when jumping or diving into water and avoid excess splashing
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