The infectious amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, has been discovered in the water supply of a parish in Louisiana that serves 12,000 people. The amoeba cannot infect humans that drink the water and can only infect humans through water contact with the nasal passage in extremely rare cases. More info from Daily Mail online.
Though no illnesses have been reported, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba has been found in the system running to Reserve, Garyville, and Mt. Airy, according to the the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals in a statement released Wednesday.
Infections with the bug are extremely rare – perhaps 132 cases have been reported from 1962 to 2014 – but of those who’ve fallen victim only three survived.
This is Louisiana’s third water system to test positive for the amoeba.
Roni Jacobson has written a scary/fun/entertaining/sad piece for Scientific American about what it is like to have your brain eaten by amoebas. The almost universally fatal infections are rare, and usually occur from swimming in warm fresh water (think Arizona). However, recent evidence suggests that the infections may be increasing, and may be spreading north, perhaps in part due to climate change. Check out Jacobson’s article for more info and a description of the infection. The beginning of the infection is described below.
It turns out that “brain eating” is actually a pretty accurate description for what the amoeba does. After reaching the olfactory bulbs, N. fowleri feasts on the tissue there using suction-cup-like structures on its surface. This destruction leads to the first symptoms—loss of smell and taste—about five days after the infection sets in.