In a Nutshell
Naegleria Fowleri, an amoeba that causes a deadly infection, is responsible for the infection and deaths of many swimmers. Survival is so unlikely, the odds against are inconceivable. Most terrifyingly of all, unlike the unwarranted fear of the shark, an amoeba is microscopic in size and the infected have no idea of their attacker until it is already too late.
The Whole Bushel
Naegleria fowleri, or more commonly known as “brain-eating Amoeba”, is an extremely rare, yet deadly infectious organism. Naegleria Fowleri is not deadly itself, however, the infection it causes is. Though rare, the infection it causes is extremely deadly, killing with a 99% mortality rate.
Naegleria fowleri causes the exceedingly deadly Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis or PAM. There is only one way to get this infection, and that is through the nasal cavity. When a swimmer is enjoying the water to escape the summer heat, they do not realize that the very thing they use to seek refuge houses and proliferates Naegleria fowleri. When the swimmer submerges themselves and accidentally allows this water into their nasal cavity, they have just risked infection. If the water is propelled through the nasal cavity with enough force, and Naegleria fowleri is amongst the water that has been inhaled, the amoeba can travel through the nasal cavity to the brain, causing PAM within a day. Contaminated water, including tap water, can carry the amoeba. Because of this, there have been many cases caused by the use of “Neti Pots”, which flushes the nasal cavity with warm water to clear sinuses.
There are two stages of symptoms of this illness. Stage one includes a severe headache, nausea, and vomiting (typical symptoms of many diseases), and stage two includes a stiff neck, seizures, hallucination, and coma, before finally resulting in death. Unfortunately, these symptoms are extremely similar to regular Meningitis and therefore misdiagnosis is known to occur at first. Infection occurs in a few days, and death usually occurs within two weeks.
There have been one hundred and twenty-eight reported cases in the United States, and unfortunately, only three have survived. There is no drug regiment found to be effective, as the three patients received a drug cocktail and survived, however, several other patients received the same drug cocktail and did not survive.