CLEVELAND, Ohio – A warning from doctors about a rare, but extremely deadly, microscopic, single-celled killer that lives in water waiting to attack.
Over the last five decades only handful of people exposed to the Naegleria Fowleri amoeba survived.
Last summer 18-year-old Lauren Seitz, from central Ohio, passed away days after picking up the amoeba at the US National Whitewater Center in North Carolina.
Her family recently sued the park, which was drained, sanitized and reopened to the public. But doctors say there is no way to entirely eradicate this aggressive brain eating amoeba, which thrives in lakes, rivers and streams.
“They like to grow in water,” said Dr. Christine Alexander, Chair of Family Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center. “Especially warm water.”
The amoeba enters through the nasal passage and makes a “beeline” for the brain, rapidly reproducing with no effective medications to kill it.
“This is not like a bacterial infection which we have antibiotics or a viral infection where we have anti-virals,” said Dr. Alexander. “We don’t have medicine to get rid of the amoeba.”
She and the CDC say, prevention is key.
People should plug their nose or wear nose plugs and cover their faces while working in moist dirt – where the amoeba is also found.
Symptoms of infection include headache, fever, stiff neck, vomiting and seizures.
Dr. Alexander says people who think they might have been exposed should seek medical attention immediately.