Arizona issues health warning as person falls ill with suspected BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA ‘after swimming in state park’

  • Would be the 30th case recorded in US since 2013 and the 10th in AZ since ’60s
  • Brain eating amoeba kills 97% of patients but unclear whether person has died 
  • READ MORE: Only four people have survived brain-eating amoeba since 1962

An Arizonan has come down with a suspected case of Naegleria Fowleri, otherwise known as the brain-eating amoeba.

The state and Mohave County health departments told that the cause of the illness has not been confirmed and declined to give the person’s sex and current condition.

Only four Americans who have ever been diagnosed with the destructive infection have lived to tell the tale. The amoeba, which lurks in fresh water, typically kills 97 percent of its victims.

If the case is confirmed to be the rare and serious infection, it would be the 30th to be recorded in the US since 2013.

The Arizona health department sent samples, presumably of fresh water where people often swim for fun, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday and could know for sure that the cause of the infection was in fact the brain-eating amoeba by the end of the week.

N. fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that causes the sudden onset of serious symptoms and often leads to brain damage and death

N. fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that causes the sudden onset of serious symptoms and often leads to brain damage and death

Dr Eugene Livar, Assistant Director of Public Health Preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services, told ‘Public health officials from Mohave County and the Arizona Department of Health Services are working together on a suspected case of Naegleria Fowleri.

‘The investigation into possible exposures and exposure locations is ongoing.’

Details about the case are scarce. For instance, the departments have not disclosed whether the person, whose gender is unknown, is currently being treated in the hospital or if they have passed away, as is very common in these infections.

Naegleria fowleri infects people when it enters through the nose and travels through the olfactory nerve responsible for sense of smell into the brain, where it causes severe inflammation and damage.

Symptoms include splitting headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Death generally comes about five days after symptom onset. 

Though typically fatal, there have been sporadic stories of Americans overcoming the potentially debilitating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). 

The damage to brain tissue, primarily to the frontal lobes and areas critical to motor skills, cognitive functions and speech ability, is so severe that people who survive the infection have to relearn to talk and walk. 

Kali Hardig, now 22, and from Arkansas, was only 12 years old when she was struck by Naegleria fowleri, which doctors think she caught at a water park.

They told her it was a ‘death sentence’ and gave her just four days to live, but a decade on she is swimming again and, last November, became a mother for the first time. She only occasionally struggles with blurry vision in her left eye due to scar tissue from the disease.

And 14-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer, from Florida, is also now a year on from being infected with the microscopic species. 

He is now walking somewhat but the damage done to his brain means he needs to communicate with facial expressions and has to use a wheelchair.