North Texas residents and visitors are being urged to use extreme caution when swimming in our area lakes this summer season due to the existence of a deadly brain-eating parasite, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, living in our freshwater lakes and waterways. This microscopic parasite thrives in freshwater when temperatures rise during the summer months of June, July, and August.
According to a press release from the City of Wichita Falls, "Naegleria fowleri is found in all natural bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, ponds, tanks, and stream. The amoeba can infect children by being forcibly injected into their sinus cavity during recreational activities. Once in the sinus, the amoeba can cause the fatal disease Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). While contact with the amoeba in natural bodies of water is common, infection is rare due primarily to the only route of infection is through the nose."
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 at least 128 people across 10 ten states in the U.S. since 1937 - again, the infection is rare but still very real.
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.
The city of Wichita Falls shared two key precautions citizens can take to help protect themselves and their children:
1. Never recreate in warm, muddy, stagnant waters.
2. Teach children to hold their nose or use nose clips when recreating in any
natural water body. Especially when the type of recreation can force water
into the nose, such as skiing, jet skiing, jumping or diving.
Or you can just stick to swimming in chlorinated pools this summer.