Danger in East Texas lakes resurfaces in summer heat

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - For many East Texans, the lakes are a source of summer fun and a way to cool off from the intense heat. But, there is a danger that resurfaces in the heat of summer. A deadly amoeba has killed at least two East Texas children in the last few years.

Blistering temperatures not only cause sunburns, it heats lake water, making it prime for a dangerous amoeba.

"This amoeba thrives primarily in warm shallow water," explained Geoff Heinicke. "We've had the heat over the last couple of weeks to make that problem."

State health services are warning about the fresh water amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri. It multiplies in high temperatures and causes amoebic meningitis.

"Because it's out there and folks are going to be out on the lakes and streams, we want you to be taking precautions," said Heinicke. "Here's how this can happen. You're swimming in a lake and, like some of us do, you take water up your nose. This amoeba moves up the nasal passage into the brain where it causes severe infection."

Once infected, it is almost always fatal. The perfect environment is stagnant heated water. In 2001, two children died from the amoeba infection after getting it on different East Texas lakes. But, lakes are not the only danger. The killer amoeba can live in improperly maintained pools, too.

"Not only are you talking about this, but you're also talking about any of the other water-born illnesses," said Heinicke.

What's the good news? It's very rare.

"In the last 45 years, there have only been 100 cases in the United States," said Heinicke.

Symptoms of infection include severe headaches and high fever. Officials say simply wearing nose plugs or a nose clip is the best defense.

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