Keeping safe from brain-eating amoeba in East Texas’ fresh water

Brain Eating Amoeba
Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - by Brian Jordan

A rare brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, claimed the life of a Missouri resident after they visited a beach, and last summer claimed the life of a Texas child after they visited a splash pad.

The amoeba thrives in warm weather, and with record breaking temperatures, right now is the perfect time for it to live in local rivers, lakes and other freshwater, including in East Texas.

Don’t panic about drinking local water, though says Public Health Veterinarian Brent Moore of the Texas Department of State Health. Naegleria fowleri enters your brain by a different method.

“You can get it by getting fresh water up through the nose,” Moore said. “It crawls up through the nose and up into the brain.”

While trying to beat the high temperatures right now, take precautions while swimming in the surrounding fresh water. Don’t dunk your head into the water where it can get up or nose, splash water into someone’s face or kick up silt while swimming. Anything that could splash water into yours or someone else’s nose according to Moore.

The ongoing drought in the area can make it easier to get the amoeba into your body. As the water recedes, the amoeba become more densely packed into the local waters.

And while rare, Naegleria fowleri has become more common in recent years, with more people becoming infected in the South, and it’s being found in the Northern U.S., where it wasn’t previously.

Symptoms of an infection from Naegleria fowleri are severe frontal headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status, hallucinations and coma.

If you or anyone think they’ve contracted Naegleria fowleri Moore say’s to “go to the doctor immediately.”

Since 1962, only five people have survived being infected, with four from the U.S. and one from Mexico, according to the CDC.

It’s impossible to see the amoeba in the water.

“A good assumption is to presume it’s there,” Moore said. “Even though the risk of infection is rare, presume all fresh water has it in there.”

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