Brain-Eating Amoeba Doesn't Just Kill Kids

warm fresh water pondIt's always freaky when a health risk that sounds like it could only exist on an episode of House starts killing people in real life. No wonder lots of folks are flipping out about the brain-eating amoeba that has caused meningoencephalitis in and killed three children this summer. These tragedies really do beg the question of whether or not the pathogen is targeting kiddos specifically. After all, two-thirds of those killed by the amoeba have been children under the age of 13. Sort of begs the question: Are adults immune to this killer amoeba, Naegleria fowleri?

Svetlana Kogan, M.D., founder of the Doctors at Trump Place in New York, says no.

So then, why have kids been the only victims so far this season?


Dr. Kogan says:

It's extremely rare, but yes, the amoeba can affect everyone, young and old. You will find more kids than adults swimming in shallow, warm, fresh water, and it's unfortunate, but that's why they're more commonly afflicted.

According to the CDC, the amoeba can also occur in poorly-maintained swimming pools or in naturally hot drinking water sources. But the only reason it seems children have been more susceptible is because they're more likely than adults to swim in lakes, ponds, or rivers over 80 degrees, where the pathogen is most prevalent. Dr. Kogan also says that there have been no reported cases resulting from swimming in salt water, so anyone swimming in the ocean shouldn't worry about Naegleria.

As for those who do find themselves playing near or swimming in ponds near their homes? Unfortunately, the only real way to 100 percent avoid the amoeba is to avoid shallow bodies of fresh water in warmer months. Of course, that's kind of extreme. Dr. Kogan's thoughts?

People should not panic. Just swim in clean, clear water, and look out for any neurological manifestations, like numbness, tingling in the hands or legs, any kinds of rashes, blurry vision, etc. after swimming in a pond.

Should any of those symptoms crop up, it would be wisest to report to the ER.

Overall, though, it seems like the ultimate solution for everyone -- adults and kids alike -- is to stick to pools or oceans when possible. After all, prevention is the only way for anyone to completely prevent an amoeba infection.

What do you make of these recent amoeba-related deaths? Do you spend time near a warm, fresh water body of water?


Image via SuperFantastic/Flickr

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