This summer, freshwater lakes and rivers throughout the United States may be harboring a dangerous parasite that quickly consumes the brain. Scientists have warned that if the parasite enters the nose, there is a 97% probability that it will result in death, and this often occurs within five days of the onset of symptoms. The Naegleria fowleri organism may be found in freshwater environments all around the globe. Since it is most active at temperatures of around 115 degrees Fahrenheit, we see an increase in reported cases throughout the warmer months of the year, namely during the summer. This indicates that lakes and rivers all throughout the United States are at risk of harboring the potentially harmful species. Even water parks offer a threat; a child in Texas, aged three years old, passed away after being infected to the virus at a local water park the previous year.
When absorbed through the nose, tainted water provides the amoeba with a direct path to the brain, which is where it is most often deadly. However, when ingested orally, contaminated water does not cause any harm because the acid in the stomach is capable of killing the bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites 154 documented occurrences of infection during the previous 60 years; practically all of these cases were found in southern regions, when summer temperatures may approach scalding levels. There was just a three percent chance of survival in each of those instances, since all but four of them ended in fatalities. Particularly, these instances have been concentrated in the states of Texas and Florida, which have reported a total of 40 and 36 infections respectively since 1962, when the CDC first began keeping track of cases.
This year there have already been two confirmed instances, one of which included a guy from Missouri who passed away after being infected in a lake in Iowa, and the other had a teenager from Florida who is still battling for his life after swimming in a river in his hometown. Within the following one to nine days after being exposed to the amoeba, a person who has been infected would most likely begin to experience symptoms such as lethargy, nausea, and headaches. After the onset of symptoms, death will almost certainly occur during the next five days.
As a result of the disease’s rarity, according to Dr. Anjan Debnath, an expert on parasitic diseases at the University of California, San Diego, medical professionals frequently misdiagnose the symptoms as meningitis, resulting in the loss of valuable time that could have been spent treating the parasite. Not only can cases found in lakes and rivers, but they may also be found in other bodies of water. Inadequate water treatment in swimming pools, private ponds, and even the water that comes out of the tap may lead to potentially fatal exposure to the amoeba. This has been the root cause of several fatalities among youngsters in recent years.
Since the amoeba is at its healthiest at temperatures of around 115 degrees Fahrenheit, you may expect it to be at its most active during the warmest days of summer in places where high temperatures are typical. Because it accesses the brain through the olfactory nerve, which is located in the nose, this pathway is very expedient. It is quite probable that an infection will develop if water that carries the amoeba is breathed in via the nose.
However, it is safe to drink water via the mouth since the acid produced by the stomach is powerful enough to destroy the amoeba. After the olfactory nerve of a person has been compromised, it might take anywhere from one to nine days for that individual to begin suffering symptoms. In most cases, they will pass away within five days after the initial manifestation of symptoms.