In 2022, lethal brain-eating amoeba infections were documented in states where the water-borne virus had never been observed previously.
As per Business Insider, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri thrives in warm freshwater, primarily lakes and rivers, but also in splash pads. If inhaled through the nose, the microscopic organism can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a deadly brain illness (PAM).
In previous years, this has necessitated that health officials in southern states devote entire summers to monitoring complaints of strange brain infections. As temperatures in the United States have risen, the amoeba’s geographic footprint has grown.
Approximately three PAM infections are reported annually in the United States, and they are typically fatal. At least four infections have been documented by Insider in 2022. Since 1962, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked PAM cases, however, the organization has not yet provided data for 2022.
One case was recorded in Florida, where a teen is still recovering from an infection he contracted in July. The remaining three infected persons all resided further north, and they all died shortly after developing symptoms.
States such as Florida, which, after Texas, has the highest number of recorded PAM infections, are better equipped to treat any brain infection in a swimmer similar to PAM. As global temperatures continue to rise, more health professionals will be needed to prepare for summer diseases.
An individual from Missouri died of PAM in July after swimming in an Iowa lake. Later testing at Lake of Three Fires revealed the presence of N. fowleri in the waters of southwestern Iowa.
Officials in Iowa had not previously spotted the amoeba, but it is likely that it existed in the state in earlier years. Humans are only harmed if the amoeba enters the nose and gains access to the brain.
It was the first occurrence of the season and the first of two PAM-related fatalities in the Midwest during 2022. In August, Nebraska verified its first death from N. fowleri after a youngster with a fast spreading brain illness died. The state had never previously reported a PAM infection.
After swimming in the Elkhorn River, just a few miles west of Omaha, the child became unwell. Officials subsequently confirmed the presence of the amoeba in the youngster.
The river flows along the same latitude as Lake of Three Fires and a lake in Northern California where officials suspect a 7-year-old child contracted the amoeba last year. Infections are emerging more frequently in the northern half of the United States as temperatures rise and water levels fall, according to a news conference held by Douglas County health officials.
“Our regions are becoming warmer,” said Lindsey Huse, county health director. “As things warm up, the water warms up, and water levels decrease due to drought, you can see that this organism is much happier and grows more normally under these conditions.”
According to the CDC, the brain-eating amoeba is not a novel occurrence in Arizona. Since 1962, Nevada has documented eight PAM cases, and a Nevada person died this year after a possible exposure in Arizona waters.
A resident of Clark County, Nevada, under the age of 18 died after swimming in the Arizona side of Lake Mead, a reservoir shared by Nevada and Arizona.
According to the Southern Nevada Health District, the youngster went swimming at the beginning of October and exhibited symptoms approximately one week later. In previous years, most infections were reported in June and July, therefore, it is probable that the amoeba’s timeframe is increasing with its geographic range.