from: Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Arizona Boy – Local News Story – KPHO Phoenix:
PHOENIX — A 14-year-old Lake Havasu boy has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain.
Aaron Evans died Sept. 17 of Naegleria fowleri, an organism doctors said he probably picked up a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, Naegleria infected 23 people from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials said they’ve noticed a spike in cases, with six Naegleria-related cases so far — all of them fatal.
Such attacks are extremely rare, though some health officials have put their communities on high alert, telling people to stay away from warm, standing water.
“This is definitely something we need to track,” said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational water-born illnesses for the CDC.
“This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better,” Beach said. “In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”
Organism Lives In Lake Bottoms
Though infections tend to be found in southern states, Naegleria has been found almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even some swimming pools. Still, the CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.
The amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff — the amoeba can latch onto the person’s olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.
People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, Beach said. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes.
Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.
“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” Beach said.
Never. Ever. Again.