By: Will Jones and Kolbye Sangi
Last Month in the small town of Lake Jackson, Texas a lethal amoeba was found in the water. An amoeba under the name of Naegleria Fowleri naturally occurs in warm freshwater and thrives in 80 to 115-degree areas. It was discovered after a six-year-old boy, Josiah McIntyre, was infected and killed by the amoeba and declared dead on September 8th. Officials tested the water and found the bacteria in the water that the boy had been exposed to. On September 27th, Governor Greg Abbott declared a disaster for this area saying, “an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life.”
It infects people when contaminated water travels up somebody’s nose, you cannot get infected by drinking contaminated water. It travels through membranes in the sinuses and ends up in the brain. In the brain, it causes swelling called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The infection, though rare, is extremely fatal with a mortality rate of ninety-seven percent, and it kills within twelve days. One case in Seattle caused the infected part of the brain to turn into a bloody mush. Some antibiotics are effective in the lab, though it’s unsure whether it is effective since almost all infections were fatal. However, new strides are being made with two people recently surviving with a new drug called miltefosine.
Close-up image of the amoeba
The city of Lake Jackson is trying to deal with it by plunging the water supply, though this could take sixty days just to flush it all out. However, it could take up to three months for their water supply to be entirely free from Naegleria Fowleri. It is unclear as of now whether other towns have been contaminated, though it’s safe to assume that it’s a possibility. According to the C.D.C., the symptoms occur in two stages. In stage one, you might experience severe headaches, fever, nausea, and vomiting. In stage two, you might experience a stiff neck, seizures, coma, hallucinations, and an altered mental status. This isn’t anything to mess around with. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, you have 10 days left.
Though these cases are rare, we might be seeing more if the climate continues to warm. With warmer waters worldwide, Naegleria Fowleri could flourish and more and more people will get admitted to a hospital. Warmer waters could also affect fish and other wildlife that live in streams, ponds, and lakes. Maybe events like this will end up happening more often, maybe this deadly strain of amoeba will migrate further north.