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Amoebra “brainwashers”: Florida authorities issue health alert after rare case of parasite infection

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Naegleria fowleri infections are extremely rare, but they cause inflammation of the brain that is often fatal

The amoeba enters the body through the nose and from there it migrates to the brain.

Photo: Science Photo Library

Its scientific name is Naegleria fowleribut yesIt is known colloquially as the “brain-eating” amoeba, because It can cause an infection in that organ that is often fatal.

Now health officials in Florida, USA, confirmed a rare case of this infection.

The Florida Department of Health said Friday that a person in Hillsborough County contracted the amoeba.

The single-celled parasite, which is typically found in temperate and stagnant freshwater such as lakes and ponds, can enter the body through the nose.

Florida authorities did not say where the infection was contracted or what the patient’s condition is.

But given the potentially deadly consequences of the infection, health authorities issued a warning to Hillsborough residents.

They are urging local people to avoid nasal contact with tap water and other sources, such as rivers, ponds, swimming pools, hot springs, and canals, where the likelihood of infection can be increased in the summer months.

Lethal infection

Infections Naegleria fowleri they are extremely rare and its symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, neck and headache.

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Infection with the amoeba N. fowleri is extremely rare but often fatal.

Getty Images
The N. fowleri amoeba infection is extremely rare but often fatal.

Most patients who get the infection die within a week.

US authorities indicate that people experiencing these symptoms should buscar immediate medical attention, because the disease progresses rapidly.

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Remember, this disease is rare and effective prevention strategies can allow you to have a safe and relaxing summer season ”, indicates the Department of Health of that country.

Most infections in the United States have occurred in states like Texas and Florida, during the summer months.

The N. fowleri It lives in warm freshwater bodies, in the sediments deposited at the bottom, where it usually finds food.

When these sediments stir, the amoeba moves in the water and, as a consequence, can be inhaled by someone who is swimming around.

Once in the nose, the microorganism invades the olfactory nerves and migrates to the brain, where it feeds on nerve cells causing a dangerous disorder called amoebic meningoencephalitis.

Although fresh water is the most likely source of infection for this amoeba, there have also been cases where the parasite has caused inflammation in people who perform nasal washes with tap water.

Rare cases

Although fatal, N. fowleri infections, authorities say, are extremely rare.

The single-celled parasite is typically found in temperate and stagnant freshwater like lakes and ponds.

Getty Images
The single-celled parasite is typically found in temperate and stagnant freshwater such as lakes and ponds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 1962 they have been reported across the United States 146 cases of amebine meningoencephalitis, of which only four patients survived.

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Between 2009 and 2018, only 34 infections have been reported. Of these cases, the CDC indicates, 30 people were infected by swimming in freshwater bodies, three were infected by nasal irrigation with contaminated tap water, and one person with contaminated water on a slide or water slide.

Experts claim that it is extremely lethal because once it enters the body, the parasite causes rapid destruction of brain tissue.

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Also, because there are no tests to diagnose N. fowleri, the symptoms can be confused with those of other less serious infections, and there are no effective established treatments for the infection.


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