Hillsborough Person Infected With Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba

Jul 7, 2020
Originally published on July 7, 2020 8:50 am

A person in Hillsborough County has been infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to a release by Florida Department of Health officials.

The microscopic amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, is usually found in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds and can cause an infection that destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal.

Officials did not release any further information about the person who was infected in Hillsborough County.

Only 37 cases have been reported in Florida since 1962 but officials are warning people who swim in warm, fresh water to take precautions.  

The amoeba enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain.  Infections have been known to happen during July, August and September when water temperatures are warm.

Swimmers can protect themselves by avoiding nasal contact with water.

Health officials also recommend the following:

  • Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
  • Please note exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses of cold/allergy-related congestion or conducting religious rituals with tap water. Use only boiled and cooled, distilled, or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.

Symptoms of the infection include headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance or hallucinations. Those who experience these symptoms after swimming in fresh water should seek medical attention immediately, health officials say.

More information about the amoeba can be found on the CDC’s website