Deadly ‘Brain-Eating’ Amoebas Are Causing Alarm In Northern US States

Naegleria fowleri brain eating amoeba northern states

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Deadly “brain-eating” amoeba infections have been expanding to states in the northern half of America, according to health officials.

In a new research paper published in the Ohio Journal of Public Health, the study’s authors write, “Increased incidence of N. fowleri [a species of brain-eating amoeba] in northern climates is but one of many ways climate change threatens human health and merits novel education of health care providers.”

Naegleria fowleri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a free-living a heat-loving amoeba (a single-celled living organism) that is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope. It is often found in warm fresh water like lakes, rivers, hot springs, swimming pools, water heaters, warm water discharge from industrial or power plants as well as in soil.

Naegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the ameba enters the body through the nose. This typically happens when people go swimming, diving, or when they put their heads under fresh water, like in lakes and rivers. The ameba then travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). PAM is almost always fatal.

Naegleria fowleri infections may also happen when people use contaminated tap water to cleanse their noses during religious practices or rinse their sinuses (sending water up the nose).

In very rare instances, people have gotten Naegleria fowleri infections from recreational water that didn’t have enough chlorine in it, such as pools, splash pads, or surf parks.

Since 1962, most cases of PAM have been linked to southern states like Florida and Texas, but that is changing

PAM usually starts causing symptoms within 12 days of water contaminated with the brain-eating Naegleria fowleri entering a person’s nose. (Entering through the mouth by drinking contaminated water does not have the same effect, says the CDC.)

Lately, however, it has been showing up in more northern states such as Minnesota, Kansas and Indiana, likely because of climate change.

“Ohio public health professionals should take note of the incidence of N fowleri infections in northern states including Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota, as well as common vacation destinations for Ohioans where N fowleri infection has been reported, such as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida,” the study warned.

If diagnosed properly then treated with the proper drugs, including miltefosine, PAM will only cause minimal neurological damage. However, in some cases it can be confused with bacterial meningitis, or other types of brain inflammation caused by bacteria, and is one of the reasons for this new report by the Ohio Public Health Association.

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Before settling down at BroBible, Douglas Charles, a graduate of the University of Iowa (Go Hawks), owned and operated a wide assortment of websites. He is also one of the few White Sox fans out there and thinks Michael Jordan is, hands down, the GOAT.