It is sad when we hear of the 9 year old from Virginia who died from meningitis caused by a fresh-water parasite that is rare- but has been reported in most states. This deadly amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri was confirmed as the cause. That makes a total of three confirmed deaths this summer.
Found in warm, stagnant water- in freshwater lakes, ponds, or rivers—the amoeba enters the nasal passages and finds its way into the brain. It goes up the nerves for smell – so some of the first symptoms are a change in smelling. This causes an infection and begins to destroy brain cells. The infection is almost uniformly fatal. Typically the amoebas are found in males doing water sports. The case from Louisiana was traced to a man who used a neti pot (a teapot like device used to put water into the nasal passages).
In the last ten years over 30 infections were reported – although many more may have occurred and were considered to be bacterial meningitis.
CDC recommends holding nose, wearing nose clips, avoiding shallow warm water. It is typically found in southern states – some have been reported in Arizona. The majority of infections were in Texas and Florida.
There has been only one successful treatment and that after early detection. If within a week of swimming in warm, shallow fresh waters you or your child develops a headache, neck pain, or mental confusion- see your physician immediately. Other symptoms include changes in taste, smell, nausea, and a stiff neck. In addition, confusion, hallucinations, lack of attention, and seizures.
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.