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Brain-Eating Amoeba Case Linked to Warm Water

By By Meghan Evans, meteorologist
August 02, 2013, 1:17:19 AM EDT


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A 12-year-old girl contracted a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba in Arkansas, and it may be tied to summer heat and drought conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The amoeba, a single-celled organism, that caused the infection is called Naegleria fowleri, which lives in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. These organisms can travel up the nose to the brain and spinal cord as people swim or dive and can cause a deadly infection called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM).

The Arkansas Department of Heath (ADH) said in a press release that the most likely source of the Arkansas infection is the Willow Springs Water Park, located south of Little Rock, Ark. Another case of PAM in 2010 is also believed to be connected to Willow Springs.

"Most of the cases occur in what we call the southern-tier states, and, in fact, about 50 percent of cases have occurred in Texas and Florida," Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist at the CDC, said.

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The Arkansas case is the first confirmed one of 2013, Cope said. In the last decade from 2003 to 2012, 31 infections have been reported in the U.S.

Naegleria fowleri is thermophilic, or heat-loving. Most infections occur during July, August and September when there is prolonged heat and thus higher water temperatures and lower water levels.


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