There’s an amoeba out there that is attacking the human brain. It sounds like something out of science fiction – or a horror movie. Scientists say it’s rare – but it’s becoming more frequent. It must be climate change, right?
The latest case was reported three weeks ago. A man swimming in in North Carolina became ill after visiting Fantasy Lake Water Park, a man-made lake in Cumberland County, on July 12. He was dead within days.
This was the fourth case in 2019 alone. There were only 145 cases between 1962 and 2018, an average of less than 3 per year.
Epidemiologists claim that the organism is found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs across of the kind that predominates in Southern states, especially during the summer months. North Carolina is especially prone to attacks.
How does it work? Water containing the deadly single-cell amoeba goes your nose and makes a bee-line for your brain, where it starts munching away.
Before long, you’re as zombified as your local TV weather girl.
In the disease’s early stages, the symptoms include severe frontal headaches, fever, nausea, and vomiting. As the disease worsens seizures followed by hallucinations and a coma ensue.
Many of those victimized by Naegleria fowleri are thought to be suffering from meningitis. By the time they are properly diagnosed, death may be imminent.
Sufferers may be treated initially with antibiotics and antivirals on the assumption that the brain-eating amoeba is a bacteria or a virus.
Last year, a New Jersey man was attacked by the amoeba at BSR Water Park in Waco, Texas. He returned to his home and reported severe headaches while mowing the lawn.
Aspirin and other remedies had no effect on the pain; the headaches only got worse. He was hospitalized and treated with antibiotics but died two days later.
Apparently, there’s no way to test a body of water, however small, for the presence of Naegleria fowleri.
And there’s no known cure.
In 2016, the FDA approved a number of drugs for the treatment for parasitic infections that are commercially available.
While they have proven effective in the test tube, they have generally failed to combat Naegleria fowleri, in human patients. Nearly all cases to date have proven fatal.
What’s especially scary about the brain-eating amoeba is the prospect of it entering a municipal water supply, and into your tap water at home.
Could you get infected while taking a warm shower?
The answer appears to be yes, although municipal authorities say they are taking steps to eliminate that possibility.
Still, a number of cases from 2012 and 2013 involved children who were attacked after using the bathroom at the home of relatives.
Some parents have begun suing the water parks where their children died — for negligence. Their lawyers claim that the park water had become a dangerous “pathogen soup”.
Overall, the probability of dying from a brain-eating amoeba seems small. And since you really can’t prevent it from preying on you anyway, why worry?
In fact, there are lots of annoying things you can’t get rid of once they get inside your head. They may not kill you right away but they’re just as deadly to your soul.
Some pop tunes, for example. Maybe we should call the brain-eating amoeba, “Despacito”.
Hearing that over and over might force the public health establishment to find a real cure.