Amoeba warning in Seminole County

Amoeba warning in Seminole County

Posted: Updated:
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - The Florida Department of Health in Seminole County urges citizens to take precautions while participating in recreational activities in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds due to the threat posed by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

The Department is currently investigating a primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) case in a school-aged Seminole County resident who died after freshwater exposure outside of the United States.

The exposure occurred in a hot spring while visiting another country. No other information on the patient will be released due to confidentiality.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the family at this time. It's very important to take every precaution while taking part in water-related activities," said Dr. Swannie Jett, Health Officer of the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County.

While infections with Naegleria fowleri are rare, most prove to be fatal. Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

Naegleria fowleri is a naturally occurring amoeba that can be found in any body of fresh water anywhere such as lakes, rivers, hot springs and poorly maintained and minimally-chlorinated or un-chlorinated swimming pools. This amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) by traveling up the nose to the brain and spinal cord. This generally happens during activities such as swimming, diving, waterskiing, or wakeboarding. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur from people irrigating their sinuses (nose) using contaminated tap water.

Some measures that might reduce your risk of infection include:

•    Avoiding water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.

•    Avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.

•    Keeping your head out of the water, holding your nose shut or using nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.

•    Avoiding digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use water that has been:
o    distilled;
o    sterilized;
o    previously boiled for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes) and left to cool; or filtered, using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller.

Rinse the irrigation device after each use with water that has been distilled, sterilized, filtered, or previously boiled and leave the device open to air dry completely.

If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in any warm body of water, it is essential to contact your health care provider immediately: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations. When seeking care, it is important to tell the health care provider about your recent water exposure.

People should always assume there is a low level of risk for infection whenever entering warm fresh water. For more information and to see a video Public Service Announcement (PSA) about the dangers of amoeba infections, go to www.orchd.com

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