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Waterborne brain-eating amoeba believed cause of death for three

Bryan Alaspa's picture

Although it sounds like something out of a science fiction horror movie, scientists do believe that a waterborne amoeba that devours the brain is the cause of death for three people.

Scientists also told the press that this is the time of year when there is an uptick in the number of cases where this amoeba attacks. Yes, cases are known to have happened many times in the past. In fact, the largest number of cases ever recorded was back in 1980 when there were eight deaths blamed on the waterborne creature. Most of the incidents happen in the South where the amoeba thrives in the warm waters.

According to media reports, the amoeba’s scientific name is Naegleria fowleri. It is a fairly rare species and the only know amoeba of its kind that attacks humans. It also has a 95% fatality rate.

In 2011, the first death known to be caused by the microscopic creature was in Louisiana this past June. Another incident happened just this past Saturday when a 16-year-old swimmer in Brevard County, Florida died from the amoeba. More than likely the amoeba entered the swimmer’s body while she was swimming in a nearby river.

P.J. Nash-Ryder was the victim. Her mother said that she came home after swimming complaining of a headache. She then threw up about 20 times and ran a fever that got as high as 104 degrees. Her mother also told the press that she would sit up in bed, but be unable to tell her mother what exactly was wrong and that her eyes were rolling and she seemed unable to shut them all the way. A spinal tap eventually revealed the Naegleria fowleri in her spinal fluid.

The amoeba seems to attack and be the most fatal to younger swimmers. Statistics show that the median age of most of the victims is about 12. A study by the CDC shows that about two-thirds of those who have died from the amoeba are below the age of 13.

The problem is that little is known about this tiny creature. For example, why are only a select view ever infected when there could be hundreds of people swimming in the same waters? Scientists are unsure, some guess that children may have some antibodies missing from their system that more adult swimmers may have to combat the tiny invader.

Scientists state that the amoeba is not actually seeking out and attacking humans. The tiny creature usually ends up the nose of a swimmer. Once it ends up there it begins doing what it does naturally, looking for food. It soon makes its way to the brain where it begins consuming neurons.

Symptoms of an infection include headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiffness in the neck. As the amoeba continues to consume neurons victims can experience hallucinations, seizures, loss of balance, disorientation, confusion, lack of attention and more. Death usually happens three to seven days after infection.

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