Thinking about going for a swim in the lake this summer?  You might want to think again.

North Texas residents and visitors are being urged to use extreme caution when swimming in our area lakes this summer season because of the existence of a deadly brain eating parasite, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, living in our fresh water lakes and waterways.  This microscopic parasite thrives in freshwater when temperatures rise and water levels drop – the exact recipe we currently have here in Texoma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the parasite invades the central nervous system through the nose, burrowing into the skull where it begins to destroy brain tissue.  Current treatments available for the infection have proven ineffective with a survival rate of 1%.  Symptoms of the infection include headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures and changes in smell and taste.  These symptoms usually begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the parasite.

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba has killed 128 people across 10 ten states in the U.S. since 1937 – 3 of those deaths happened last year and four in 2010. The infection is rare, but still very real as well.

Kory King spoke with Lou Kreidler, Director of the Wichita Falls Health Department, about the parasite. Listen to the interview below below:

Of course the best way to prevent getting this fatal infection is to stay out of the water. But if that is not an option, you should try not to submerge your head under the water and wear a nose clip to prevent anything from entering your nostrils – or just stick to swimming in chlorinated pools this summer.