'Brain-eating amoeba' Naegleria Fowleri: Florida Department of Health reminds swimmers of dangers

TAMPA - The Florida Department of Health cautions those who swim frequently in Florida lakes and rivers about the possible presence of a brain-eating amoeba.  While contact with this amoeba is rare, it is usually deadly.

As temperatures rise and kids are out of school looking for ways to cool off, we have a warning about a rare but deadly danger lurking in our fresh waters.

Steve Huard is the Public Information Officer for the Hillsborough County Health Department.  "The Florida Department of Health has put out a notice for the state, its residents and visitors about the Naegleria Fowleri which is an amebic disease which affects people very quickly. If you get this amoeba it will have serious effects on your body within five days, so it's very important people know what it is and how you get it."

The amoeba lives in the fresh waters in Florida and is typically found during warm periods of time.  Huard said, "So as you see the temperatures in lakes and rivers rising, we want to be very careful not to be in the shallows stirring up the muck where this amoeba can be found.  The route of entry is through the nose.  So people who are water skiing, for example, should watch and see how much muck has been stirred up, and then if they fall off the skis and go down when the water is charged up, the nose is really the chance the amoeba has to connect with the body."

Symptoms to look out for include headache, fever, vomiting, nausea, becoming disoriented, seizures and hallucinations. If you have any of these symptoms after you've been swimming in a warm body of water, like a lake, seek medical attention immediately.

Huard said, "Since 1962, we've only had 123 reported cases in Florida, however in Hillsborough County we did have a death in 2009.

That death was a child, and the average age of amoeba victims is 12, perhaps because young people are more likely to jump into the water, dive to the bottom, and stir up the areas where the amoebas live.

How can infection by the amoeba be prevented?  Don't go in those warm mucky lake areas or use a nose clip when you go in the water.

 More information from the Florida Department of Health: http://bit.ly/14kwl55

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