- Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that enters through the nose
- The rare condition attacks the brain and causes death in 97 percent of people infected in the United States
- It is rare but has already infected four people this year
- These amoeba thrive in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs
- Experts say three cases after 2005 could’ve been caused by Hurricane Katrina
- The environment in Florida could lead to more infections after the hurricane
Natural disasters such as hurricanes leave behind warm water that can be riddled with diseases and infections for people left to deal with the aftermath of the storm.
One of these infections could be brain-eating amoebas that are known to thrive in warm pools in the southeastern parts of the United States.
The crippling organisms are rare, but they enter through the nasal passages and into the brain.
Only four people in the United States have survived this infection and there have already been four cases this year.
Experts say three documented cases in Louisiana could have been caused by Hurricane Katrina, and there is an increased risk for people in Florida after Hurricane Irma.
A man in Gainesville, Florida, wades through the water by his home on Thursday after the hurricane hit on Sunday. Brain-eating amoeba have been known to thrive in warm freshwater in lakes, rivers and hot springs. This amoeba can enter the body through the nasal passages and attack the brain
What is a brain-eating amoeba?
Naegleria fowleri, known as brain-eating amoeba, is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.
This living organism infects people when water containing it enters the body through the nose.
It will then crawl up into the the brain and start attacking the tissue, which will create an inflammatory response by the body.
Health risks people need to worry about AFTER the hurricane is over
Hurricanes cause not only an extreme amount of damage during but can also be damaging to the health after it is done.
Officials have warned people to be careful when returning to their homes to help avoid these risks.
The floodwater combines with sewage, chemicals and other diseases to make it very dangerous for anyone.
People need to avoid ingesting food or drinks that have touched the water because it could cause a serious illness.
Also, toys and items that come in contact with the floodwater should be sterilized or thrown out.
These bugs love floodwater once it has stopped storming because it is the perfect breeding ground.
People need to wear bug spray when returning home to help protect themselves against mosquito-borne diseases that carry from their bite.
Natural disasters can be damaging on a person’s mental health.
It is hard to see all of your personal possessions getting destroyed and having to build again.
Researchers have noticed an increase in people suffering from depression or PTSD after natural disasters like hurricanes.
Someone can get infected when they swim or dive into warm freshwater that has the amoeba living in it.
Sometimes, an infection can occur in contaminated tap water if an amoeba is able to enter into the pipe system.
It can then invade the nasal passages if someone washes their face or submerges their head into the contaminated tap water.
There is no danger for someone who drinks or eats food that has been touched by contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What are the symptoms of having a brain-eating amoeba?
The amoeba causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a brain infection that creates destruction of the tissue.
At the beginning, PAM may appear to be bacteria meningitis because it shows similar initial symptoms.
These symptoms include nausea, vomiting and headaches, and will start around five days after infection.
The disease then progresses to symptoms of confusion, stiffness in the neck, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
After symptoms begin, the disease moves rapidly and kills the person within five days, on average.
There have been only four known people with this disease out of 143 cases in the United States to have survived, according to the CDC.
How prominent is it in the United States?
Brain-eating amoeba infections are incredibly rare across the world.
There have been 40 known cases in the United States from 2006 to 2016.
Of those 40 cases, 36 of those people were infected by the amoeba from recreational water such as rivers and lakes.
Four people were infected from contaminated tap water that they used on their face to allow the amoeba to go up their nose.
This year, there has already been four cases of people getting infected and one of them occurred in Florida.
Three cases occurred after 2005 in areas were Hurricane Katrina caused damage.
One Mississippi boy got infected and died in 2013 after getting the brain-eating amoeba while playing on a water slide.
He lived in St. Parish, Mississippi, which was one area that was largely damaged during the hurricane.
People play in the waters from Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday after the hurricane hit on Sunday. Amoeba thrive in areas of warm water. Once they enter through the nose, they can attack the brain and cause death. Only three percent of people in the US have survived brain-eating amoeba infections
Once a person is infected with the brain-eating amoeba, they experience symptoms within five days and normally die five days after that. This is how an amoeba looks under a microscope
‘One of the concerns is that it was such a drastic population drop after Katrina and the water aged…just by sitting in the pipes and also a drop in lower demand,’ said Jake Causey, chief engineer for Mississippi’s health and hospitals, to CNN.
‘The more quickly it is used up (the water), the more the water system is able to process a good chlorine system.’
An amoeba is able to survive in pipes if the climate is warm enough.
Can this impact Florida after Hurricane Irma?
Hurricanes bring large amounts of water that are left stagnant long after the storm finishes.
In areas such as Florida, the warm weather invites bacteria such as naegleria fowleri to live in these pools of water.
Also, hurricanes can damage water systems which can allow for these amoeba to contaminate the tap water that people might think is safe.
Amoeba can live a long time in these areas as long as it is warm enough for the them to thrive.
Venice, Florida, had to shut off its water supply this week due to damage to the main pipe lines.
Once the break is repaired, the city will restore water but officials say residents will need to boil their tap water for 48 hours to get rid of any bacteria.
Situations like this one are when amoeba can invade the pipes and contaminate tap water.
Since it invades through the nasal passages, experts recommend people to wear nose plugs when in warm freshwater and to take proper precaution with tap water that could be contaminated.