State medical officials were advised of a possible occurrence of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) caused by Naegleria fowleri, the free-living amoeba located in fresh water lakes and other waterways, which led to the death of a Sedgwick County citizen. The investigation from Sedgwick County Medical Division personnel revealed the infection probably happened when the young boy was swimming in the Winfield City Lake found in Cowley County.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has verified the existence of Naegleria fowleri after testing a blood sample from the deceased Kansas resident, who was identified as 14 year-old Andrew Chavez. Researchers from the CDC in conjunction with the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Department, reported this is the first ever identified occurrence of PAM brought on by Naegleria fowleri reported in Kansas. A Cowley County Health Department official told reporters the young boy’s death was a very rare event, and there were no plans to treat the water in Winfield Lake. In fact, there are no reasonable treatments that can be made to prevent Naegleria fowleri infection.
Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in fresh water lakes and rivers around the world, yet disease leading to PAM is exceedingly uncommon. Between 2001 and 2010, 32 issues were documented in the U.S.
The chance of infection increases during the summer months, and may be related to extended intervals of hot weather with increased water temperatures and lower water levels. The infection, which is almost always lethal, typically happens after the amoeba gets into the body when water is ingested through the nostrils or mouth, while the individual is swimming or diving.
The amoeba moves through the sinus cavities and eventually finds its way to the brain. The effects of the amoeba’s attack on the victim are quite devastating as it ravages the brain and slowly causes the victim to lose their wits, then consciousness and almost always, their life.
Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri
Symptoms of Naegleria fowleri consist of:
- head ache, fever and body aches
- vomiting and nausea
- stiff neck or sore joints
- confusion or loss of concentration
- lack of stability and physical control
- convulsions and hallucinations
This disease is not contagious, can’t be passed between people, cannot be contracted from a correctly cared for swimming pool, or from water that is below 80°F.
If symptoms are identified and recent activity in or around stagnant or high-temperature water, or use of a neti pot with tap water is known to have occurred recently, immediate attention by a physician is required.
Preventing Naegleria fowleri
Although the threat of disease won’t be eliminated, these measures can reduce your chances:
- Avoid playing in warm water, hot springs, or thermally-polluted water including those close to energy plants
- Don’t play in warm water with high water temperatures and reduced water levels
- Don’t place your head under water
- Avoid water ingestion while swimming in warm fresh water lakes, streams, or hot springs
- Do not dig around or stir up sediment while playing in shallow, warm water
The best idea to avoid contamination from is to not swim in warm, standing water, badly managed swimming pools, storm water retaining areas or in locations where “no swimming” signs are erected.