Amoeba Awareness

When you see the three letters P.A.M, what is the first thing that springs to your mind?  It probably is'nt the words Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis. Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, also known as P.A.M, is a disease people don’t understand, and have probably never heard of until someone they know contracts it. P.A.M. is caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri which can be found in warm fresh water around the world. Naegleria fowleri infections are rare and devastating. Since 2004, there have been 34 infections reported in the U.S. All but two were fatal.

Naegleria fowleri is a warm water loving ameba found around the world, often in warm or hot freshwater such as lakes, rivers and hot springs. The amoeba can travel up the nose and into the brain. This causes the disease P.A.M. which destroys brain tissue and causes brain swelling and death.

It is important for parents to recognize symptoms of the disease and to educate yourselves on how it is caused and what you need to do to help prevent it from happening to your loved ones. Symptoms are mild at first, however they quickly progress. Symptoms usually start about 5 days after the infection has been contracted. Early symptoms can include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting, progressing to stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. After symptoms begin, the disease quickly causes death within 1-12 days.

It has been noted that the disease is more common in young boys after the use of warm lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is not known why it is more common in boys, however the theory is that boys participate in more water activities like diving, and playing in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers.

How to Protect Yourself;
Whether you’re in Florida, or any other warm/hot climate state or country, you should always assume that there is a low level risk of contracting Naegleria fowleri infection if you enter freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs.
The only certain way to prevent infection is to avoid swimming or participating in fresh water sports and activities. If you choose to swim, follow these tips to help prevent amoeba entering through your nose:

• Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater.

• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperatures and low water levels.

• Avoid putting your head under water in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.

• Avoid digging in, or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in warm freshwater areas.

Educating yourself and other people you know who either participate in freshwater activities or have children who enjoy water activities, could save people’s lives and help prevent further fatalities from this devastating disease.