Brain-Eating Pathogen Resurfaces in Heartland State After 35 Years, Officials Issue Warning

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: “Brain-eating amoeba” comes to America’s heartland. But it’s true, according to the Des Moines Register. A Missouri resident went swimming at Iowa’s Lake of Three Fires State Park in Taylor County and contracted a very rare infection. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said on its website that the individual was infected by Naegleria fowleri, “a microscopic single-celled free-living amoeba that can cause a rare life-threatening infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.” The individual is hospitalized and is in intensive care. Officials did not disclose the name or location of the facility. Lisa Cox, communications director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the current belief is that the swimmer was infected sometime during the last two weeks of June. [firefly_poll] “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,” Cox said, the Register reported. “Additional public water sources in Missouri are being tested, as well,” she said. The amoeba is common in warm freshwater locations, such as lakes, rivers and ponds. The disease, however, is not. Over the past 60 years, 154 cases have been identified in the United States. The only other case to impact a Missouri resident took place in 1987, according to the Department of Health. Infection occurs when the amoeba enters the body along with water that comes up an individual’s nose. The amoeba travels to the brain and destroys tissue there. The infection cannot be spread from one person to another and does not occur when a person swallows water containing the amoeba. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is usually fatal. “These situations are extremely rare in the United States and in Missouri specifically, but it’s important for people to know that the infection is a possibility, so they can seek medical care in a timely manner if related symptoms present,” said Dr. George Turabelidze, Missouri’s state epidemiologist, the Department of Health website reported. Experts say using nose clips or holding your nose when diving into a freshwater lake could limit the water going up one’s nose. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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