Texas warns of brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of patients

Texas warns of brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of patients

Texas warns of brain-eating amoeba that kills 97 percent of patients

A Texas river authority has warned people to be aware of brain-eating amoebae present in water as temperatures rise in the state.

The Brazos River Authority said earlier this month that rising temperatures increase the risk of Naegleria fowlerica deadly microbe that can be present in freshwater, swimming pools and springs.

The microbe infects humans by entering the body through the nose, usually while swimming or diving. It can then travel through the nose to the brain, where it destroys tissue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes infections as rare, with 33 infections occurring in the country between 2011 and 2020. However, infections have a high mortality rate of over 97 percent, meaning almost all people infected by the amoebae die.

Dive into the lake
A stock photo shows someone diving into a body of water. A Texas river authority has warned of deadly brain-eating amoebae that may be present in water.
NiseriN/Getty

The Brazos River Authority said last week that people living in warm states such as Texas should “assume there is a risk in entering all warm freshwater bodies.” However, it also stated that being aware of the microbe “doesn’t mean you have to live in fear of visiting your favorite water spots, like the Possum Kingdom Lake or the Brazos River.”

Citing sources such as the CDC and Texas Health and Human Services, the authority said some steps people can take to prevent infection include wearing nose clips or holding the nose; avoiding submerging the head in water; avoid shaking underwater sediment while swimming, as the microbe can be found in the bottom; avoiding aquatic activities in warm fresh water where the water level is low or in standing water; and taking ‘No Swimming’ signs seriously.

“This microscopic organism reaches the brain through deep inhalation through the nose. Once it reaches the brain, it begins to feast, triggering an intense immune response that leads to dangerous brain swelling and massive headaches and nausea.” Bill Sullivan, professor of microbiology and immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine, said: news week

“As the brain gets bigger, communication with the spinal cord is compromised, blocking signals that keep the lungs and heart working. The infection kills about 97 percent of those it infects in about five to seven days.”

Sullivan said that while infections are rare, there is “growing concern” that the amoeba is more common in northern states due to climate change increasing the temperature of bodies of water. The amoeba is found in countries all over the world.

“On rare occasions, cases have been linked to public fountains, water parks and tap water,” he added. “While drinking tap water does not cause infection, its use in nasal neti pots has been linked to cases of brain-eating amoebae.”

Texas has been sweltering hot for the past few days with triple digit temperatures. The heat wave has led to a record spike in power demand across the state as residents turn on air conditioners to stay cool.