HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- Health officials say there has been a confirmed case of Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba, in Hillsborough County.
According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba that can cause a rare infection of the brain, called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue and is usually deadly.
The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater like lakes, rivers, ponds and canals, according to DOH. Infections can happen when the contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The peak season for Naegleria fowleri is July through September. The amoeba is more common in the southern states, DOH said.
Infection is very rare in Florida, as there have been only 37 reported cases with exposure in the state since 1962, according to DOH. Infection can also be prevented by avoiding nasal contact with the waters, DOH said.
DOH in Hillsborough County gave the following recommendations on how people can prevent infection:
- Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
- Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
- Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
- Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
You can also get exposed to the amoeba by using neti pots to rinse your sinuses, DOH Hillsborough said in a press release.
DOH Hillsborough said to watch for the following symptoms if you are swimming in any warm body of water: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations.