Naegleria Infection

What is Naegleria?

Naegleria is an amoeba commonly found in the environment, in water and soil. Only one species of Naegleria has bee found to infect humans, Naegleria fowleri.

Where is Naegleria found?

Naegleria fowleri is found worldwide. Most commonly, the amoeba is found in

  • Warm bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs
  • Warm water discharge from industrial plants
  • Under-chlorinated swimming pools
  • Soil

How common is Naegleria infection?

Although Naegleria is commonly found in the environment, infection occurs rarely.

Only 24 infections were documented in the U.S. between 1989 and 2000.

When is Naegleria most common?

Infection with Naegleria is most common during the dry, summer months, when the temperature is above 80 ° F and the water is warm and water levels are low.

How does infection with Naegleria occur?

Infection with Naegleria occurs when the amoeba enters the body through the nose while the person is swimming underwater or diving. The amoeba then travels to the brain and spinal cord.

What are the signs and symptoms of Naegleria infection?

Infection with Naegleria causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain inflammation, which leads to the destruction of brain tissue.

Initial signs and symptoms of PAM include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. As the amoeba causes more extensive destruction of brain tissue this leads to confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance and bodily control, seizures, hallucinations. The disease progresses rapidly and infection usually results in death within 3 to 7 days.

Is there treatment for infection with Naegleria?

Several drugs are effective against Naegleria in the laboratory. However, although a variety of treatments have been used to treat infected persons, their effectiveness is unclear since most infections have still been fatal. Prompt diagnosis and treatment may help.

Can infection be spread from person to person?

No. Naegleria infection cannot be spread from person to person contact.

How can I prevent an infection with Naegleria?

  • Avoid swimming or jumping into bodies of warm fresh water
  • Avoid swimming in thermally polluted water (water around power plants)
  • Do not swim in areas posted as "no swimming."
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when jumping or diving into bodies of fresh water.
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when jumping or diving into bodies of fresh water.

Can I get Naegleria infection from a swimming pool?

No. You cannot get Naegleria infection from a swimming pool as long as the pool is properly cleaned, maintained, and chlorinated.

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