“Georgia Teen Girl Dies of Brain-Eating Amoeba After Swimming in Lake”

By | August 14, 2023

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A brain-eating amoeba called Nagleria fowleri, found in freshwater, has caused at least three deaths in the US this year. The infection occurs when the bacteria enter the nose during submersion in fresh water, usually while swimming. The amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue. The Southern US, particularly Texas and Florida, has reported the most cases. Experts believe climate change could make the infections more common. Symptoms include headache, nausea, fever, and vomiting, which can progress to confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and coma. The best prevention is to avoid putting your head in the water while swimming. Melissa Rudy reported

Cooling off in lakes, rivers, and streams is a beloved summer activity, but for a small number of unfortunate individuals, it can lead to a dangerous infection caused by Nagleria fowleri, a bacteria commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba. This year, there have been at least three reported deaths in the United States from this infection, which occurs when the bacteria enter the nose while submerged in fresh water, typically during swimming. The CDC has stated that Nagleria fowleri can cause a deadly condition called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue. Out of the 157 known cases of infection in the U.S. between 1962 and 2022, only four individuals have survived, resulting in a death rate of over 97%.

One tragic case occurred in late July, when a 17-year-old girl named Morgan Ebenroth from Georgia died after becoming infected with the bacteria while swimming in a lake with friends. In another incident in July, a 2-year-old boy in Nevada died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba infection from a natural hot spring. Additionally, in February, a man from Florida died after being infected while washing his face and rinsing his sinuses with tap water containing Nagleria fowleri.

To shed light on the risks and prevention of this infection, Fox News Digital spoke with Tammy Lundstrom, the chief medical officer and infectious disease specialist for Trinity Health in Michigan. Lundstrom emphasized that the risk of brain-eating amoeba is very low, with fewer than 10 people in the U.S. getting infected each year. However, most cases are fatal, and there are only a few survivors.

The Southern U.S., with its warmer temperatures, has reported the highest number of cases, with Texas and Florida accounting for nearly half of the total cases between 1962 and 2022. The highest-risk months are July, August, and September. Lundstrom also clarified that the amoeba only exists in freshwater, so swimming in the ocean does not pose a risk.

Naegleria fowleri thrives in warm water, with optimal growth occurring at temperatures up to 115°F. This makes July, August, and September the months with the highest risk, according to the CDC. Some experts believe that climate change could contribute to an increase in Naegleria fowleri infections. As temperatures rise, water temperatures in lakes and ponds also increase, creating a more favorable environment for the amoeba to grow. Heat waves, characterized by higher than usual air and water temperatures, may further facilitate the thriving of the amoeba.

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The initial symptoms of PAM usually appear about five days after exposure to the bacteria, but they can manifest earlier. Early signs commonly include headache, nausea, fever, and/or vomiting. As the infection progresses, people may experience confusion, stiff neck, disorientation, hallucinations, seizures, and coma. It is important to seek medical evaluation if these symptoms arise, as they are also indicative of bacterial meningitis.

Preventing infection primarily involves avoiding submerging the head in water while swimming. Lundstrom recommends using nose clips or holding the nose shut to prevent the entry of water containing the amoeba. Stirring up sediment at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and rivers should also be avoided since the bacteria can be found in soil. Drinking contaminated water does not cause infection, and transmission does not occur between individuals.

When a patient is diagnosed with a brain-eating amoeba, treatment typically involves a combination of anti-fungal medications such as rifampin and azithromycin. Miltefosine, a newer anti-fungal drug, has shown promise in killing the bacteria in laboratory tests and has been used to treat some surviving patients. However, due to the high fatality rate, the effectiveness of these drugs on infected individuals is uncertain.

If sudden symptoms such as headache, fever, stiff neck, or vomiting occur, especially after swimming in warm freshwater, immediate medical attention is recommended. Despite the high fatality rate of this infection, Lundstrom emphasizes that cases are extremely rare, and millions of people safely enjoy swimming every summer. The best precautionary measure is to avoid submerging the head while swimming in the summer..