The Killer In The Water

Labor Day is often a holiday filled with the last sips of summer sun and water fun. This Labor Day, please arm yourself and others with the knowledge of how to stay safe, from an unseen killer. Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that lurks in fresh waters worldwide, yet most people have never heard of it. Rest assured though, that those of us who have heard of it, usually wish we never had. Because most of us have lost someone we love dearly to this merciless killer. For my family, it was my daughter’s best friend and cousin, at the innocent age of seven. Some facts about Naegleria fowleri: • It exists in fresh water worldwide, but not in salt water • It is alive once water temperatures reach 80 degrees or higher • It is ONLY contracted by inhaling water or choking on water and sucking it up into the nasal passages, so avoiding it is simple: don’t put your head below water in any freshwater source • It implants in the nasal passages, then quickly finds its way to the brain • Symptoms occur within 2-14 days of water activity and deteriorate rapidly into death • It is often misdiagnosed because symptoms mimic meningitis: headache, stiff neck, high fever, vomiting, unconsciousness, and even seizures Rarely, Naegleria has been found and even contracted from unsanitary water parks and pools. Also, in an unusual case this summer, one person died after having contracted Naegleria from the water in his house while using a Neti pot to flush his sinuses. Please do not let the label of “rare” dissuade you from taking safety precautions. Often, people see “rare” and figure there’s no way they will be the one of the rare statistics. But how rare something is, can really be a result of how educated people are about it. If doctors don’t know about it, as many do not, it is often never properly diagnosed and therefore never reported, as in my family’s case. I am not alone in my desire to educate others about this killer. A mother in Texas, who lost her 7-year-old son, Kyle, just last August, is working diligently to bring national or even worldwide attention to Naegleria fowleri so that no other mother will have to go through what she has been through. Her link will follow my blog, along with a link to CDC’s information on Naegleria. Since no one knows about Naegleria fowleri, no one tries to avoid it. Since no one has heard about it before, it doesn’t seem to be real. Since no one is educated about it, it is easier to ignore the simple warnings than to go out of your way to take safety precautions. Trust me, when I say that no matter your reasons for not trying to keep your family safe, you will regret all of your excuses as your heart weeps at a hospital bedside if Naegleria fowleri finds someone you love. Please stay safe and help us educate others by telling them, or linking to this blog or Kyle's website.