Por Marlene Lenthang – NBC News
Authorities have ordered an Iowa beach closed after a swimmer from another state was reportedly infected with a life-threatening brain-eating amoeba.
The Lake of Three Fires beach in Taylor County was temporarily closed to swimming Friday as a “precautionary response” after a visitor from Missouri was reported to have contracted the rare brain infection caused by the amoeba. Naegleria fowlerithe Iowa Department of Public Health announced in a news release.
The patient had primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, and was being treated in the intensive care unit, Missouri health officials said Thursday.
“Not contagious, but can be life-threatening,” the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a tweet.
Tests are underway to confirm the presence of the Naegleria fowleri at the Lake of Three Fires in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The process could take several days.
“Public health experts believe the lake is a likely source, but we are not limiting the investigation to that source because it has not been confirmed. Additional public water sources in Missouri are being tested,” the Missouri Department of Public Health said. .
Naegleria fowleri is a “free-living microscopic amoeba,” found in warm freshwater bodies such as lakes and rivers, or in inadequately chlorinated pools or contaminated heated tap water, according to the CDC.
It typically infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain, “where it destroys brain tissue,” the Iowa Department of Health statement said.
PAM is “usually fatal” and, according to the CDC, only five surviving cases have been reported in North America.
It cannot be transmitted from person to person and cannot be caught by swallowing water, the CDC said.
PAM is “extremely rare” and only 154 known cases have been identified in the United States since 1962, Iowa health officials said.
“No additional suspected cases of PAM in Missouri or Iowa are currently being investigated,” the statement said.
In September 2020, a 6-year-old boy died after being hospitalized with the eating amoeba of brains in Lake Jackson, Texas. It was believed that she became infected after playing in a city water park.
In August 2021, a 7-year-old boy died after contracting PAM after swimming in a Northern California lake. The following month, a boy in Arlington, Texas, died after becoming infected with the amoeba in a park fountain.
PAM symptoms begin one to nine days after swimming or nasal exposure to contaminated water. Authorities advise swimmers to contact their doctor if they experience a severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting or a stiff neck after swimming in a warm body of water.
Officials encourage beachgoers to reduce the risk of infection by holding their noses or using nose clips when swimming, keeping their heads out of the water during water-related activities, and avoiding entering the water during periods of high temperatures.