Experts: Lake Mead brain-eating amoeba death among few in US

Oct 21, 2022, 3:58 AM | Updated: 3:59 pm
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, kids fish at twilight at the edge of Kingman Wash, at Lake ...

FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, kids fish at twilight at the edge of Kingman Wash, at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona. Regional health officials say a Las Vegas-area boy died from a rare brain-eating amoeba that investigators think he was exposed to in warm waters at Lake Mead. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The death of a Las Vegas-area teenager from a rare brain-eating amoeba that investigators think he was exposed to in warm waters at Lake Mead should prompt caution, not panic, among people at freshwater lakes, rivers and springs, experts said Friday.

“It gets people’s attention because of the name,” former public health epidemiologist Brian Labus said of the naturally occurring organism officially called Naegleria fowleri but almost always dubbed the brain-eating amoeba. “But it is a very, very rare disease.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tallied just 154 cases of infection and death from the amoeba in the U.S. since 1962, said Labus, who teaches at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Almost half those cases were in Texas and Florida. Only one was reported in Nevada before this week.

“I wouldn’t say there’s an alarm to sound for this,” Labus said. “People need to be smart about it when they’re in places where this rare amoeba actually lives.” The organism is found in waters ranging from 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius) to 115 degrees (46 C), he said.

The Southern Nevada Health District did not identify the teen who died, but said he may have been exposed to the microscopic organism during the weekend of Sept. 30 in the Kingman Wash area on the Arizona side of the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The district publicized the case on Wednesday, following confirmation of the cause from the CDC.

The district and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which oversees the lake and the Colorado River, noted the amoeba only infects people by entering the nose and migrating to the brain. It is almost always fatal.

“It cannot infect people if swallowed, and is not spread from person to person,” news releases from the two agencies said. Both advised people to avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm water, especially during summer, and to keep the head above water in hot springs or other “untreated geothermal waters” that pool in pocket canyons in the vast recreation area.

“It is 97% fatal but 99% preventable,” said Dennis Kyle, professor of infectious diseases and cellular biology and director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases at the University of Georgia. “You can protect yourself by not jumping into water that gets up your nose, or use nose plugs.”

The amoeba causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection with symptoms resembling meningitis or encephalitis that initially include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting — then progress to stiff neck, seizures and coma that can lead to death.

Symptoms can start one to 12 days after exposure, and death usually occurs within about five days.

There is no known effective treatment, and Kyle said a diagnosis almost always comes too late.

Kyle, who has studied the organism for decades, said data did not immediately suggest that waters warmed by climate change affected the amoeba. He said he knew of fewer than four cases nationwide.

A survey of news reports found cases in Northern California, Nebraska and Iowa. A CDC map showed most cases during the last 60 years in Southern U.S. states, led by 39 cases in Texas and 37 in Florida.

“I think this year is sort of an average year for cases,” Kyle said. “But this was a very warm summer. The key point is that warmer weather tends to generate more amoeba in the environment.”

Not many labs regularly identify the organism, Kyle noted. He said that AdventHealth Central Florida recently joined the CDC with programs able to identify it.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo Amazon Prime boxes are loaded on a cart for delivery in Ne...
Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press

Amazon says it had its biggest Thanksgiving shopping weekend

Amazon said Wednesday it had its biggest ever Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend, aided by a record number of consumers looking for deals online amid high inflation.
20 hours ago
A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi...
David Klepper, Associated Press

Twitter ends enforcement of COVID misinformation policy

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus. Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

El Salvador journalists sue spyware maker in US court

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Journalists from an investigative news outlet in El Salvador sued NSO Group in United States federal court Wednesday after the Israeli firm’s powerful Pegasus spyware was detected on their iPhones. In January, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, an internet watchdog, reported that dozens of journalists and human rights […]
20 hours ago
FILE - People hold signs and shout slogans before the cancellation of the Los Angeles City Council ...
Associated Press

LAPD seeks Reddit search warrant over leaked council remarks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police have sought a search warrant for the Reddit website as they try to identify the person who leaked a racist discussion between Los Angeles City Council members and a powerful labor leader, causing a scandal that has rocked the community and shaken faith in its lawmakers. The LAPD is trying […]
20 hours ago
FILE - AWS CEO Andy Jassy discusses a new initiative with the NFL during AWS re:Invent 2019 in Las ...
Associated Press

Amazon CEO says company won’t take down antisemitic film

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said Wednesday the company does not have plans to stop selling the antisemitic film that gained notoriety recently after Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving tweeted out an Amazon link to it. Pressure has been mounting on Amazon to discontinue sale of the film, called “Hebrews to Negroes: […]
20 hours ago
This photo provided on Dec. 1, 2022, by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim J...
Associated Press

North Korea’s Kim calls for meeting to review state affairs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a major political conference before year’s end where he’s expected to address his increasingly tense relations with Washington and Seoul over the expansion of his nuclear and missile programs. North Korea’s state media said Thursday that Kim presided over a meeting of […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Experts: Lake Mead brain-eating amoeba death among few in US