Beach in Iowa closed after brain-eating amoeba confirmed in Missourian

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A rare brain infection has led Iowa officials to close a Taylor County beach.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the temporary closure is a precautionary response to a confirmed infection of Naegleria fowleri in a Missouri resident who had recent potential exposure while swimming at the beach at Lake of Three Fires State Park.

Testing to confirm the presence of the “brain-eating amoeba” is being conducted in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and could take several days to complete. 

The department wrote that it is working closely with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services and would share updates as test results become available.

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No additional suspected cases are under investigation in Iowa

The Lake of Three Fires State Park in Taylor County, Iowa
(Iowa Department of Natural Resources)

In its own statement, The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services wrote that the Missouri patient is currently being treated for primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) in an intensive care unit of a hospital.

It said the source of the patient’s exposure is being investigated and that local and out-of-state activity are being considered. 

The only other case identified among a Missouri resident occurred in 1987 and no other suspected cases of PAM are being reviewed there.

“These situations are extremely rare in the United States and in Missouri specifically, but it’s important for people to know that the infection is a possibility so they can seek medical care in a timely manner if related symptoms present,” Dr. George Turabelidze, Missouri’s state epidemiologist, said in a statement.

Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba" or "brain-eating ameba"), is a free-living microscopic ameba*, (single-celled living organism). It can cause a rare** and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba” or “brain-eating ameba”), is a free-living microscopic ameba*, (single-celled living organism). It can cause a rare** and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))

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The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said on Facebook Friday that it is strongly believed by public health experts that the lake is a likely source and that additional public water sources in Missouri are being tested.

Missourians are warned to take caution when swimming and diving in warm freshwater and assume the presence of Naegleria fowleria in those conditions.

Since 1962, only 154 known cases have been identified in the U.S.

PAM is not contagious, but can be life-threatening.

The Lake of Three Fires State Park in southwest Iowa

The Lake of Three Fires State Park in southwest Iowa
(Iowa Department of Natural Resources)

Naegleria fowleria, the free-living microscopic single-celled living organism that causes PAM, is commonly found in lakes, rivers, hot springs and soil. 

It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the nose and the amoeba travels to the brain.

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In very rare instances, infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources enters the nose, but a person cannot be infected from swallowing contaminated water.

Symptoms of infection include severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, altered mental status and hallucinations.

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