Swimmer dies after catching deadly brain-eating amoeba while swimming in Iowa lake

Missouri Swimmer dies after catching deadly brain-eating amoeba in Iowa lake

  • Individual, who has not been named, was visiting the Lake of Three Fires in Iowa
  • They had come on a trip from neighboring Missouri, where they lived
  • About two weeks after the dip they were admitted to intensive care with symptoms of an infection with the amoeba
  • One week later health officials announced they had died from the disease

A swimmer has died after catching a deadly brain-eating amoeba while swimming in an Iowa lake.

The individual from Missouri — who has not been named — died from the infection about a week after being admitted to intensive care, the state’s Department of Health confirmed.

It is believed they became infected in the Lake of Three Fires, in the southwestern portion of the Hawkeye state, which has been closed to swimmers while it is tested for the micro-organism.

The amoeba — scientifically named Naegleria fowleri — enters the body when water is taken in through the nose, typically while swimming.

It then spreads to the brain where it destroys tissue leading to hallucinations and seizures in the late stages of infection. Around 97 percent of patients die.

The swimmer is thought to have caught the amoeba at the Lake of Three Fires in Iowa (pictured). It is named after a native tribe that used to live in the area. The lake remains closed to swimmers at present while testing is carried out (file photo)

The Missouri Department of Health revealed the patient had been admitted to hospital with the infection on July 6, about two weeks after the swim.

Eight days later, they said the individual had died from primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) — a rare and usually fatal brain infection.

No further details on the patient have been published, due to concerns over revealing their identity because the disease is so rare.

What is primary amebic meningoencephalitis?

Primary amebic meningoencephalitis is a rare and usually fatal brain infection.

It is triggered the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which enters the body when it is taken in through the nose.

Once an infection is established, it spreads up nerves to the brain where it destroys tissue.

Patients initially experience a headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

But in the later stages they can also face hallucinations and seizures.

About 97 percent of people who become infected with the amoeba die from the disease.

Source: CDC

Officials said in a statement: ‘Because these cases are so incredibly rare and out of respect for the family, we do not intend to release additional information about the patient which could lead to the person’s identification.’

The amoeba that caused the fatality can be found in soils and freshwater worldwide.

But it only tends to pose a risk when lakes become warmer, typically above 115 F (46 C), in summer. 

The disease is very rare, with only 148 cases being reported in the United States since the 1960s.

Of these, however, just four patients survived.

Out of all the cases, many were linked to swimming in warm waters in southern states such as Florida and Texas.

People who catch the disease initially suffer symptoms such as a headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck.

But in the later stages these can progress to seizures, hallucinations and an altered mental state.

Patients cannot spread the disease to others, health officials say. 

Several drugs are used to treat patients, the CDC says, although few have survived the disease previously.

Officials from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are currently testing waters from the Lake of the Three Fires — named after a native tribe — to establish whether the amoeba is present.

Results are expected in the coming days.

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