Iowa Lake Closed After Swimmer Was Infected With Brain-Eating Amoeba With 97% Fatality Rate

Iowa Lake Closed After Swimmer Was Infected With Brain-Eating Amoeba With 97% Fatality Rate

The illness caused by the amoeba advances quickly and causes death within 5 days from the onset of symptoms.

A beach in Iowa has been blocked after a rare life-threatening brain illness was discovered in a visitor who had recently gone swimming there. The swimmer from Missouri was most likely exposed to the Iowa lake water during the last two weeks of June, according to officials, who could not provide precise dates, per Des Moines Register.

Iowa Department of Public Health announced the news of closure in a statement released last Friday. The release reads, "The closure is a precautionary response to a confirmed infection of Naegleria fowleri in a Missouri resident with recent potential exposure while swimming at the beach at Lake of Three Fires State Park." 

Naegleria fowleri, "a microscopic single-celled free-living ameba" was found in the lake. According to the Health Department, it, " can cause a rare life-threatening infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The ameba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and ponds; however, PAM is extremely rare." Only 154 known cases have been documented in the United States since 1962.



According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bulk of illnesses in the United States have been caused by Naegleria fowleri from freshwater in southern-tier states. Infections caused by the amoeba may arise when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose, travels up to the brain, and damages brain tissue, according to the health department. The illness is not communicable and cannot be transmitted by drinking polluted water, per CNN.

Testing for the presence of Naegleria fowleri in Lake of Three Fires is being carried out in collaboration with the CDC and might take several days. According to the agency, no new suspected cases are being investigated in Missouri or Iowa.



A child in North Texas died in September 2021 after acquiring the uncommon brain-eating amoeba at a public splash area. In 2020, a 6-year-old kid in Lake Jackson, Texas, died after being exposed to an amoeba detected in the water of a splash fountain where he had been playing. After battling the brain-eating amoeba for more than a week, a 10-year-old Texas child died in 2019.

The first signs of PAM appear approximately 5 days (range 1 to 12 days) after infection. The first signs may be a headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms may include stiff neck, disorientation, inattention to persons and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. The illness advances quickly after the onset of symptoms and typically causes fatalities within 5 days (range 1 to 18 days). The fatality rate of PAM is expected to be 97%.



Diving or leaping into the water, submerging the head underwater, or engaging in other water-related activities that cause water to go up the nose are all behaviors connected with the illness, according to CDC. When water carrying the ameba enters the body through the nose, it infects humans. Hence, personal measures to minimize the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection should focus on minimizing the amount of water that goes up the nose.






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