The Florida Department of Health is warning swimmers who dive into the Sunshine State’s lakes and rivers during warm temperatures to be wary of Naegleria fowleri — a rare amoeba that targets the brain and usually results in death.
The "brain-eating" microbe, which enters through the nasal passages, has caused just 123 reported cases since 1962, but can become fatal within five days of exposure.
As a precaution, health officials recommend:
- Avoid activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.
- Steer clear of fresh water-related activities during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
- Hold your nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in freshwater lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
- Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while swimming in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
Exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses
of cold/allergy-related congestion with unfiltered tap water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises cleaning these devices thoroughly after every use and filtering the water before placing it in the pot.
If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in any warm body of water, contact your healthcare provider immediately: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations.
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