NAEGLERIA FOWLERI FATALITY CONFIRMED BY THE SOUTHERN NEVADA HEALTH DISTRICT

Published by The Bee News

October 23, 2022

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BOULDER CITY, Nev. – The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) has confirmed the death of a Clark County resident resulting from an infection of Naegleria fowleri, or a brain-eating amoeba.

SNHD investigated the death of a juvenile male who may have been exposed to the organism the weekend of September 30 in the Kingman Wash area of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This is the first confirmed fatality caused by Naegleria fowleri from possible exposure at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Naegleria fowleri is commonly found in bodies of warm freshwater, such as lakes and rivers, and geothermal water, such as hot springs. The amoeba infects people by entering the body through the nose and traveling to the brain. It cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person. The infection is extremely rare, and almost always fatal.

“The National Park Service, working with the NPS Office of Public Health, has made the decision to continue to allow recreational swimming at Lake Mead National Recreation as the organism exists naturally and commonly in the environment but disease is extremely rare,” said Dr. Maria Said, U.S Public Health Service Officer. “However, recreational water users should always assume there is a risk anytime they enter warm fresh water.”

Infection with the amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that initially includes headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting and progresses to stiff neck, seizures and coma that can lead to death. Symptoms usually begin about five days after infection but can start within 1 to 12 days. Once symptoms start, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days.

The amoeba is naturally occurring, and there is no routine test for Naegleria fowleri. Previous water testing has shown that it is regularly found in freshwater bodies and though the risk is low, recreational water users should always assume there is a risk when they enter warm fresh water and take precaution.

Recommended precautions from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention include:

Avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm freshwater, especially during the summer.
Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when in bodies of warm fresh water.
Avoid putting your head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.
Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment in shallow warm fresh water.
For more information about Naegleria fowleri go to www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html.

For more information on the incident, please contact Jennifer Sizemore at the SNHD at Sizemore@snhd.org.

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