Lethal water parasite to watch out for this summer

POSTED: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 4:42pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 7:35pm

WACO -- Most would agree, one of the best parts of summer is taking trips to the lake. But a water-born parasitic amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri may have you rethinking those plans.

“If you’re in the shallow bodies of water and somehow water goes into your nostrils, this amoeba can move into your brain tissue and basically eats it. That’s why they call it brain eating ameba,” Epidemiologist for the McLennan County Public Health District, Dr. Hammad Akram said.

The amoeba causes what's called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis or PAM which is deadly within days. Doctors say it's found in the soil in warm, stagnant or slow-moving and shallow water.

“Highly recommend that do not stir up or dig up the bottom of the pond where you are swimming,” Dr. Akram said.

The good news is: it's rare. From 2001 to 2011, there have been only 32 confirmed cases in the country. Thankfully none in McLennan County, but the risk is still there.

“Using swimming pools is preferred because if they are well chlorinated there are no chances of getting it.”

Also, you can be exposed to the parasite, but as long as it doesn't go up your nose, you're safe.

This is the same parasite that killed users of Neti Pots in previous years. Though the devices are safe, doctors recommend you use boiled water so any parasites in tap water are killed.

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