Brain-Eating Amoeba Case Closes Beach in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources temporarily closed a Taylor County beach after a rare brain infection caused by an amoeba was found in a visitor from Missouri.

The beach closure, as the authorities said, was a precautionary measure after the Missourian with confirmed infection of Naegleria fowleri said that he was potentially exposed to the brain-eating amoeba while swimming at Lake of Three Fires State Park.

During the closure, testing that could take several days to complete is being conducted in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm the presence of the amoeba.

Confirming that the Missouri patient is currently being treated in an intensive care unit of a hospital for primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said that they’re working closely with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services which noted that no additional suspected cases are under investigation in the state.

The departments said they would share updates as test results become available, pointing out that they’re considering local and out-of-state activity while investigating the source of the patient’s exposure.

Naegleria fowleri (or brain-eating amoeba) is a free-living microscopic single-celled living organism that can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rare and devastating infection of the brain that is not contagious but can be life-threatening.

Only 154 known cases have been identified in the US since 1962 and the only other case identified among a Missouri resident occurred in 1987.

Missouri’s state epidemiologist Dr. George Turabelidze underscored that it’s important for people to know that the infection is a possibility although these cases are extremely rare in the US and in Missouri specifically, so they can seek medical care in time if infection-related symptoms present.

It is commonly found in lakes, rivers, hot springs, and soil and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the nose –a person cannot be infected from swallowing contaminated water- and the amoeba travels to the brain causing severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status, and hallucinations.

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