United States: a “brain-eating” amoeba kills a teenager after swimming in a lake

No, you should not worry, reassure the experts. A teenager died after being exposed in late September to a ‘brain-eating’ amoeba (scientifically called ‘Naegleria fowleri’) while bathing in the warm waters of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, reports Associated Press . “It is a very, very rare disease”, assures an epidemiologist, questioned by the press agency, taken up by The Guardian.

The brain-eating amoeba is usually found in warm waters, from 25°C to 46°C. “I wouldn’t say ring the alarm bells,” says Brian Labus, a former public health epidemiologist, only calling on people to “be smart about it when they’re in places where this amoeba”.

The American authorities have identified “only” 154 cases of infection and death in the United States caused by this amoeba, of which almost half for the states of Texas and Florida alone. In 2020, a six-year-old child died in Texas from an infection caused by Naegleria fowleri. A year earlier, still in the United States, it was in a water park that an American had been “contaminated”, who died a few days later.

Only one case in France

According to the National Health Security Agency, a single case was reported in France in 2008. A 9-year-old boy died of lightning meningitis after swimming and diving in a pool fed by a water source. hot, in Guadeloupe, where the presence of the bacterium had been detected.

Very rare, the “brain-eating” amoeba is invisible to the naked eye. It is known to scientists to first attack the nasal mucous membranes before ascending to the brain. The disease it causes, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, is almost always fatal. It can take about ten days to cover the face of its victim, from the nostrils to the brain, but the first symptoms are generally triggered after five days.

“It cannot infect people if it is swallowed and is not transmitted from person to person,” recalled the American authorities, after this new case. “You can protect yourself by not jumping in water that comes up your nose or by using nose plugs,” said Dennis Kyle, an infectious disease and cell biology specialist and director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases at the University of Georgia.

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