The brain-eating parasite that has been headline news in the last few weeks is a rare occurrence. This brain-eating parasite can be in the water and a person can drink it without getting sick. It is when contaminated water gets into the nose, from swimming, recreation, or even through tap water delivered to the nose with a neti pot. The parasite travels through the nasal passage and to the brain, attacking it quickly.
According to ABC News on Aug. 26, warm, swallow and standing water is the breeding ground for the Naegleria fowleri, which is the scientific term for the brain eating parasite, or amoeba. It is also found in the sediment of rivers and lakes. This amoeba is usually harmless, unless it travels to the brain through the nose.
The interest today in the brain-eating bacteria comes with the death of a 12-year-old Florida Boy, Zachary Reyna. He contracted this disease while knee boarding near his home in a ditch filled with water on Aug. 3. Reyna died over the weekend, reports his family. Although he is still on life support, but this was done only for the purpose to harvest his organs to donate, which was his family's wish.
“This is a very rare occurrence,” Glades County Health Department spokeswoman Brenda Barnes told ABCNews.com. “This amoeba is out there. It could be anywhere in any warm, fresh water.” It is important to seek medical help immediately if you have been swimming in fresh water and these symptoms occur.
The Naegleria infection presents with early symptoms which include a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can swiftly be followed by a stiff neck, seizures, confusion and hallucinations. The more severe symptoms present as the brain-eating parasite makes its way up through the nasal cavity into the brain.
The CDC's websites states:
“After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days. People should seek medical care immediately whenever they develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck and vomiting, particularly if they have been in warm freshwater recently.”
In 2011 two individual cases of the brain-eating parasite case came from the use of tap water in a neti pot. According to CBS News archives, these two people from Louisiana, a 28-year-old man and a 54 year-old woman, came from different parts of the state, but both died from the brain-eating disease and neither had gone swimming.
The two people that died from the parasite coming into the home in tap water did not know one another and were from two separate parts of the state. The bacteria was found in a tankless water heater in the man's house after researchers came in to test his home.
In the woman's home the amoeba was detected in the bathroom sink and tub's faucet. Both of these individuals filled their neti pots with water out of the tap. It is important to use distilled or boiled water when using a neti pot for this reason.