A Brain-Eating Amoeba Is Terrorizing America’s Best Whitewater Destinations

Where to find — and how to avoid — Naegleria fowleri

July 27, 2016 9:00 am

As this year has proven all too well, trouble lies just beneath the surface.

Today’s scourge: a freshwater amoeba that’ll eat your brain.

Scientifically referred to as Naegleria fowleri, the freshwater parasite thrives in warm conditions and has already claimed the lives of two young people this summer.

The organism exists in states across the country, although the two deaths were at Lake Maverick, Texas, and the U.S. National Whitewater Center on the Catawba River outside of Charlotte. The victims were 19-year-old Hudson Adams and 18-year-old Lauren Seitz, respectively.

Naegleria fowleri enters the body through the olfactories, causing primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). These flu-like symptoms take about 5-18 days to manifest and almost always lead to death. The parasite has been around for thousands of years, but is seeing population growth thanks to warmer temps and lower water levels.

The good news is there’s now a drug called miltefosine that has saved the lives of two cases this year. Aside from avoiding the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department recommends using nose clips in freshwater, avoiding waters that are stagnant and warm, and refraining from stirring up the sediment in lake and river beds.

Tread lightly, friends.

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