Note: See Update at the end of this post
A dangerous amoeba that thrives in warm, freshwater bodies in the heat of summer caused the recent death of a 16-year-old Central Florida girl, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Monday.
The amoeba, officially known as Naegleria fowleri, is a single-cell, microscopic organism found in such freshwater bodies as lakes, rivers, hot springs and, occasionally, in neglected, unchlorinated swimming pools. The amoeba typically enters a swimmer’s nose and invades the brain causing an almost always fatal infection, according to Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta.
Out of 118 people reported to have had the amoeba infection since 1962, only one survived, Yoder said. Most reported cases have been in the southern states of Florida and Texas, he said. — Reuters
This sounds so tragically lopsided it’s hard to fathom. A teenager swimming in the St. John’s river on a hot summer’s day — that’s what they’re supposed to do, isn’t it?
It’s enough to turn a garden variety neurotic into a raging germophobe. You see them all over, in restaurants, stores, your own workplace. They can’t make it through the day without squirting some noxious hand cleanser on themselves, or wiping down everything in reach with disinfectant. Worse, they’re as aggressively evangelical about it as a Jehovah’s Witness pit bull: they want to spray or wipe YOU down when they do themselves. For your own good.
So how do you defend against an invisible single cell in a body of water? Nose plugs? A full-body condom? Prayer?
I’m no germophobe, although considering the rare fungus that damn near took out my eye following Lasik surgery, I suppose I have justification to be. But as cases like this sadly demonstrate, there’s only so much you can do, and seemingly freakish developments can come your way no matter what precautions you adopt.
I guess this is all just a fancy way of saying Shit Happens.
UPDATE: Second incident of “brain-eating amoeba” death reported — CBS News
News that a 9-year-old Virginia boy died recently of a brain infection linked to a water-borne “brain-eating amoeba” is bound to raise concern as water-lovers look for ways to cool off in the dog days of summer.
Autopsy results confirmed the cause of death as an inflammation of the brain and its lining. The victim’s mother said the boy, Christian Alexander Strickland, had attended a fishing day camp at several locations the week before he died.
“It’s important that people be aware of … safe swimming messages,” Dr. Keri Hall, state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in a statement.
Asked about exposure to brain eating amoeba,” Michele Bachmann deferred comment.