Brain-Eating Amoeba

Of all the infections that one can get from living a so-called ordinary life, this one is about as lethal as any I’ve come across in the past. The disease is called primary amoebicMH900448580 meningoencephalitis, or PAM for short. Fortunately, it’s rare and only 128 cases have been reported in the United States between 1962 and 2012.

The bad news is that of those 128 cases, there was only one survivor. PAM is a devastating infection of the brain caused by the free-living Naegleria fowleri organism. It’s been called the “brain-eating amoeba” in the media because the organism enters the body through the nose and travels up the olfactory nerve to the brain. It then causes the usually fatal PAM.

Before proceeding, however, let me clarify that although the spelling of “amoeba” is used almost exclusively around the world, it’s sometimes spelled as “ameba” in North America. Therefore, in some references you may see this spelling alternative.

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater (such as lakes, MH900430603streams and hot springs) and the infection occurs when people go swimming or diving in these waters. In rare instances, PAM can occur from inadequately chlorinated swimming pools. Infections can even result from contaminated tap water if an individual uses the water to flush out the nose, as in using a neti pot for sinus irrigation.

Most infections occur in southern-tier states, with more than half of the occurrences in Texas and Florida. And cases have been identified in Louisiana after the hurricane Katrina hit the area. Aside from such a natural disaster, the PAM infection disproportionately affects males and children, probably as a result of their more aggressive water sports activities.

The infection presents much like bacterial meningitis. Symptoms include severe headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and seizures. The most important medical clue leading to a proper diagnosis of PAM is if the patient presents with the above-mentioned symptoms and, in the two weeks prior to symptom onset, the patient swam in a freshwater lake, river or stream.

The only certain way to prevent this amoebic infection is to refrain fromMH900442342 swimming in warm freshwater. Barring that, there are several preventive measures one can take to reduce the risk of contracting this disease. Hold your nose shut or use nose clips when swimming or diving into freshwater, or keep your head above water at all times when enjoying outdoor water sports. And never put your head under water when soaking in natural hot spring pools.

Additional advice is to not dig in or stir up the sediment in shallow freshwater. The sediment is a perfect breeding ground for such amoeba. And when irrigating the sinuses with tap water, be sure to first boil the water for at least one minute—or for three minutes at elevations higher than 6,500 feet. And always allow the water to cool before use.

These measures may seem drastic but a PAM infection is nearly ALWAYS FATAL, so act cautiously to ensure your safety against this lethal organism.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in About James J. Murray, Attack of Bacteria, Blogging, Brain Eating Ameba, Brain Eating Amoeba, Contaminated Fresh Water, Differences in Generic Drugs, Fatal Amoebic Infections, Fatal Brain Infections, Freshwater Sports Dangers, Infections From Fresh Water, Infections From Katrina, Internet Drugs, Naegleria fowleri, PAM, Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Brain-Eating Amoeba

  1. abbiefoxton says:

    I first came across this in New Zealand as it is printed on many a back door of hot springs and natural spas…between that warning and fear of being bitten by giant Wetas, you can say I couldn’t totally relax.

  2. Jim,
    Another great blog that points out that the world is not safe, and you can’t always protect yourselves or those you love from it. On a scale of one to panic, I put this one very far down. In the five years 2002-2006, 211 people were killed in the US by lightning. 79% were males, and probably not coincidentally one fifth were in Texas or Florida. As you mentioned in an earlier posting, it may actually be detrimental to protect children from every possible danger of disease or injury. I say, go jump in a lake and enjoy it.

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