This story is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck and make alarmists out of the most reasonably minded among us.
A twelve year old boy in South Florida has contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, the same disease an Arkansas teen continues to fight at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
Zachary Reyna was exposed to the organism that causes the deadly infection while playing in a channel with friends. The havoc wreaking culprit, Naegleria fowleri, is an amoeba found in fresh, warm and shallow water.
Arkansan Kali Hardig came down with the infection after an outing at a water park that was fed with lake water in mid to late July. Since 1962, only 120 people have been diagnosed; just one survived. However, Kali is continuing to recover; her physicians were granted permission by the Centers for Disease Control to use a German cancer drug that has not yet been approved by the FDA here in the US. There have been no published reports on whether or not Zachary will receive the same treatment.
PAM is extremely rare and health officials don’t know why only a very few individuals contract PAM while hundreds of thousands are exposed to Naegleria fowleri. The organism travels up the nose to the brain, where the illness – one that destroys the brain in short order–is born and fed.
As a precaution, officials recommend that swimmers avoid kicking up sediment (where the amoeba thrives) while in warm fresh water, especially when temperatures are at their highest.