Rare amoeba likelihood increases in heat, drought conditions

KWTX News 10 at 10P
Published: Jul. 10, 2022 at 4:03 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Many may feel like taking a dive this summer, but health officials are reiterating a warning about a rare-but-deadly amoeba lurking in Texas waters.

Though cases are few-and-far between people are asked should still consider some swimming alternatives.

“It is very rare, we’ve had less than 40 cases in Texas since 1979,” said Lara Anton with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

She is talking about the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, a rare-brain-eating amoeba found in fresh water sources. One of the most recent incidents of the amoeba taking a life was recently reported in Iowa.

“When you dive in and the amoeba goes up into your nasal passages, that’s when it gets up into your brain,” said Anton.

After that people usually have a headache, fever and vomiting, she said. That can quickly progress to seizures, confusion, loss of balance, and ultimately death.

According to the Health Department’s research these hot and dry conditions lately increase the potential to find the amoeba in bodies of water.

“The best way to prevent it is to stay out,” said Anton.

Some alternatives to fresh water swimming include places like public pools, or pools and water sources regularly cleaned with chlorine.

“It has actually been proven that one-part-per-million of chlorine does kill the brain eating amoeba in nine seconds,” said Claryce Free, the aquatics manager for the City of Killeen.

Water parks have to follow state regulations when it comes to the water cleanliness. The systems in place make sure nothing dangerous -- like an amoeba -- lives in the water.

“The water itself goes through a filtration system,” said Free. “So we take out any-and-all particles, hair, different parts of clothing, things that might come off in the water.”

So, as this long-hot summer continues, it may be worth taking a second to think about where you or anyone else will be swimming.

“We’re definitely seeing the potential for there to be a case,” said Anton. “And most of the time when we see cases it’s in the late summer months; July, August and September.”

Related Link: Central Texas woman who lost daughter to rare ‘brain eating’ amoeba works to spread awareness

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