Brain-eating amoeba kills infected swimmer in Lake Iowa

A Missouri swimmer died days after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba in an Iowa lake.

On Friday, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services officials said the swimmer died as a result of the rare Naegleria fowleri infection.

“Unfortunately, the patient died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis,” a department spokesperson told CNN. “Although the occurrence of Naegleria fowleri infection is extremely rare, once infected it is usually fatal.”

On July 8, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced that the Lake of the Three Fires beach in Taylor County was closed to swimming following “a confirmed infection of Naegleria fowleri in a Missouri resident with recent potential exposure while swimming on the beach at Lake Three Fires State Park.”

A Missouri swimmer died days after being infected with a brain-eating amoeba in an Iowa lake. Above, people kayak and swim at Willow Beach on the Colorado River below the Hoover Dam in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nevada.
Patrick T. Fallon

The swimmer’s identity has not been released.

Health department officials said they and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were testing for the amoeba in the lake.

The ministry said that Naegleria fowleri is “a free-living, single-celled microscopic amoeba that can cause a rare and life-threatening brain infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).”

He added that while the amoeba is commonly found in fresh water, PAM infections are “extremely rare”.

“Since 1962, only 154 known cases have been identified in the United States. No other suspected cases of MPA are currently under investigation in Missouri or Iowa,” the department wrote.

Naegleria fowleri infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose.

“It travels to the brain along the olfactory nerve, which is a nerve connecting the nose and the brain that controls our sense of smell,” said Dr. Julia Haston, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Newsweek last month.

“Once the amoeba reaches the brain, it begins to destroy brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is usually fatal,” she added.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, symptoms of infection include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck.

“People can take steps to reduce the risk of infection by limiting the amount of water that comes up through the nose,” the department says.

Newsweek contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for comment.

In separate incidents in Pakistan in May, two people were infected with the brain-eating amoeba. One died and the other was in critical condition at the time.


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