A killer fresh-water parasite, popularly known as the Brain-eating Amoeba, is suspected to have caused the infection that resulted in the death of three individuals, including a child. Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in warm fresh-water bodies, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs, is reported to have killed an unidentified man in his early 20s, a 9-year-old boy, and a 16-year-old girl this month, say health officials in Louisiana.
Christian Strickland, a 9-year-old from Henrico County in Virginia died of meningitis on Aug. 5 after being infected while on a visit to a fishing camp in his state. Courtney Nash, 16-years-old, was infected during a diving session at St. John's River in Florida. Her death was reported earlier this month.
The third victim of the Brain-eating Amoeba contracted the infection from the tap water he used to rinse out his sinuses with, reported Daily Mail. As per the report, Louisiana state epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard said the problem was confined to the man's house and was not found in the city's water samples.
Sadly, we have had a Naegleria infection in Virginia this summer, Dr. Keri Hall of the Virginia Department of Health, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. It's important that people be aware of safe swimming messages.
Although not a true amoeba, this killer parasite can invade the central nervous system of humans via the nose resulting in significant necrosis of and hemorrhaging in the olfactory bulbs. From there, the amoeba climbs along nerve fibers through the floor of the cranium into the brain. The organism then starts to consume cells of the brain using a unique sucking apparatus on its cell surface. The pathogen thus causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM or PAME) affecting the nervous system. The infection is more likely to occur in healthy children or young adults, with no prior history of immune compromise, who have recently been exposed to fresh-water bodies.
The symptoms could appear on the first day of the infection or it could take up to 14 days and include changes in taste and smell, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Secondary symptoms include confusion, hallucinations, lack of attention, ataxia, and seizures. After the start of the symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly over 3 to 7 days with death occurring from 7 to 14 days after exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the brain-eating amoeba killed 33 people between 1998 and 2007. In the 10 years, from 2001 to 2010, 32 infections were reported in the U.S. Of these cases, 30 people were infected by contaminated recreational water and two by water from a geothermal drinking water supply.