While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the chances of becoming infected by the single-celled organisms known as Naegleria folweri are rare, recent deaths may indicate that it isn’t rare enough to negate the need to increase public awareness.
An 11-year-old South Carolina girl died after becoming infected by the brain-eating amoeba. According to the state health department, it is believed that the child became exposed on July 24 after swimming in the Charleston County’s Edisto River.
In June, the same brain-eating amoeba was also blamed for the death of an 18-year-old Ohio woman, who became infected after falling out of a raft at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In July, a 19-year-old Houston resident died from the infection after swimming in freshwater in Harris County. He was working as a lifeguard at the Frontier Christian Camp, about two hours north of Houston. Over the weekend, the teen starting feeling sick, with flu-like symptoms. He was transferred to a local hospital where he was put on life support. He died two days later.
Between 2006 and 2015 there have been 37 infections in the United States. Only three people have been recorded to have survived exposure because when an infection occurs, it spreads very quickly and options for treatment are limited.
This brain-eating amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater, including lakes, rivers and hot springs. The lower the water level and the warmer the water, the greater the risk of contracting the amoeba. According to the CDC, when the amoeba becomes lodged into a person’s nose and starts looking for food, it ends up in the brain and begins quickly eating at neurons. The amoeba multiplies and the brain will swell, creating immense pressure until the brain stops working.
Symptoms begin within five days of the amoeba entering the nose and mimic those of bacterial meningitis – headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. Death typically occurs within 12 days of becoming infected; the fatality rate for an infected person is more than 95 percent, according to the CDC.
In recent years, the breast cancer and anti-leishmania drug, Miltefosine, has shown some promise, however several factors come into play. The hardest is getting the drug through the brain barrier, which helps to keep foreign substances from entering brain tissue. Timing is also of the essence. Miltefosine was used to treat a 12-year-old Arkansas girl who is one of only three survivors. It is believed that early detection and the drug saved their girls’ life. The South Carolina victim was given the drug, but it was not given early enough to avoid the fatal consequences of the infection.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. The series features super-trial lawyer Zachary Blake handling "ripped from the headlines" legal and political issues of the day. The series currently consists of Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, and Betrayal High, with a sixth Zachary Blake novel due out later this year. To learn more about these topical social justice legal thrillers. please visit markmbello.com. Mark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.