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Saturday, September 29th 2007

Naegleria Fowleri Is Scary

Brain Tissue Changes In Amebic Meningioencephalitis

A little bit of a chilly and sad story as N fowleri has claimed the life of an Arizona boy. That brings the total for the year throughout the country to 6 deaths. Over the decade before 2007 the average had only been approximately 2 deaths/year.

A 14-year-old Lake Havasu boy has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain.

Aaron Evans died Sept. 17 of Naegleria fowleri, an organism doctors said he probably picked up a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu.

The amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff — the amoeba can latch onto the person’s olfactory nerve.

The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.

Naegleria is a scary disease. Here’s the CDC fact sheet. One day you’re swimming in typically still, warm, fresh water and 1 to 2 weeks later you’re dead.

Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.

“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” Beach said.

That being said, realize how rare this is. I’m not trying to spread this public health efforts as terror, which has become so popular in the mainstream media.

The real story here is this boy and his family, rather than the actual danger to the public. My prayers are with them.

“For a week, everything was fine,” [the father] said.

Aaron got the headache that wouldn’t go away. Evans, [his father,] took him to the hospital, and doctors thought his son was suffering from meningitis. Aaron was rushed to another hospital in Las Vegas.

Evans tried to reassure his son, but he had no idea what was wrong. On Sept. 17, Aaron stopped breathing as David held him in his arms.

“He was brain dead,” David said. Only later did doctors realize the boy had been infected with Naegleria.

“My kids won’t ever swim on Lake Havasu again.”