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Brain-Eating Amoebas in your Pool!
The latest scare-tactic health story of the week claims that there are brain-eating amoebas in swimming pools that could...well...eat your brain.
Unfortunately, yes, it appears to be true and they really do eat your brain. The amoebas, called Naegleria fowleri or N. fowleri, get into your nose and travel to your brain where they secrete enzymes that liquify the brain matter and cells. Our brains taste much better as a milkshake, apparently.
As you might imagine, this is not a pretty way to go. Once symptoms appear, which is usually within a couple of weeks, death occurs within three to seven days. Early symptoms include headache fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, inability to pay attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. The health diagnosis for N. fowleri is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM. Antibiotics can cure PAM if it’s detected early enough. Sadly, because brain-eating amoebas are so rare, it’s usually too late by the time doctors realize that’s what’s wrong.
In 2007, there were only six cases, and they were in really hot areas of the country: Florida, Arizona and Texas. No cases have been reported as of yet for 2008.
Before you swear off swimming pools, remember that this is very rare. Also, they like hot, dirty water. So if the swimming pools you visit are well-cleaned (and relatively cool), you should be fine. So enjoy your summer, swim in pools, enjoy the lakes. If you want to be cautious, the CDC recommends using nose plugs.
Will you be toting nose plugs to the pool, river or lake with you this summer? [WebMD]