TAYLOR COUNTY, Iowa — Water tests are being conducted on a lake in southern Iowa on Friday after a Missouri resident became infected with a brain-eating amoeba after visiting an Iowa state park.
Effective immediately, the Iowa Department of Public Health shut down the beach at Lake of Three Fires, which is just north of Bedford, Iowa, about 15 miles from the state’s southern border with Missouri.
The Missouri patient is being treated for primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) in an intensive care unit of a hospital, but it’s presently unknown where they live or are being treated. This is Missouri’s first case since 1987.
“These situations are extremely rare in the United States and in Missouri specifically, but it’s important for people to know that the infection is a possibility so they can seek medical care in a timely manner if related symptoms present,” said Dr. George Turabelidze, Missouri’s state epidemiologist, stated in a news release Thursday.
Health officials say the Missouri resident recently swam at the beach and later became sick with Naegleria fowleri. Water samples are being taken at the lake on Friday to test for the amoeba.
IDPH reports that the amoeba is commonly found in freshwater, but reiterated that infections from it are rare. Only 154 cases have been confirmed in the last 60 years across the entire country, according to IDPH.
The amoeba can enter the body if a swimmer gets water containing it up their nose. It then can travel into the swimmers brain where it destroys tissue. The amoeba can’t be spread from one person to another and can’t be contracted simply by drinking contaminated water.
Symptoms of an infection include:
- Severe headache
- Altered mental status
- Stiff Neck
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should obviously contact a their health care provider.
Swimmers can avoid possible infection from the amoeba by taking care to keep water out of their nose, including plugging their nose when diving in or wearing nose clips.
Swimmers should avoid swimming in warm water and try not to stir up sediment from lake or river beds when swimming.