The unidentified patient, who is hospitalized in Missouri, swam at Lake of Three Fires State Park before being stricken with Naegleria fowleri, an infection so rare there were just 154 known cases in the U.S. from 1962 to 2019, according to the CDC. Of those infected, only four people are known to have survived.
“It’s strongly believed by public health experts that the lake is a likely source, but we are not limiting the investigation to that source and it’s not confirmed,” Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services told the Des Moines Register. “Additional public water sources in Missouri are being tested as well.”
Beach closed after brain-eating amoeba confirmed https://t.co/VC2v1ZCXKb
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Authorities believe the swimmer, who is in intensive care, was likely exposed to the amoeba in the Iowa lake over the last two weeks of June, though they didn’t have specific dates.
Naegleria fowleri is typically found in warm freshwater, including lakes, rivers, and ponds. It can “cause a rare, life-threatening infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis,” Missouri health officials said in a news release.
Humans can be infected when water containing the amoeba enters through the nose, usually during swimming or diving in lakes and rivers. Once in the body, the amoeba makes its way into the brain, where begins attacking tissue. Symptoms include fever, stiff neck, vomiting, seizures, severe headache, altered mental status, and hallucinations, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Senior Services.
The agency recommends using nose clips when swimming in fresh water, not submerging your head in “hot springs and other untreated thermal waters” and not participating in “water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high-water temperature.”
In May, a man in Pakistan died and another became seriously ill after they were infected with the brain-eating amoeba.
The infection cannot spread from one person to another and cannot infect people who simply drink contaminated water, health officials said.