Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Aug 2023 | Journal | 0 comments

Brain-eating amoeba: hidden threat in Mohave County’s waters

Journal | 0 comments

August 2023

MOHAVE COUNTY – The tranquil waters of Lake Mead, a popular spot for many Mohave County residents and visitors, hide a microscopic menace that has claimed lives and is causing growing concern among health officials. The culprit is a microscopic parasite, Naegleria fowleri, more commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba.
This amoeba thrives in warm freshwater bodies and has been found in several locations across the U.S., including Arizona. It enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain, causing a devastating infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). While rare, the disease has a 97% fatality rate, and symptoms often appear too late for effective treatment.
This year, a Nevada resident died after potential exposure in Arizona waters, specifically the Arizona side of Lake Mead. This incident has raised alarm among local communities and health officials in Mohave County.
Dr. Wassim Ballan, an infectious disease specialist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, warns that the amoeba’s geographic footprint could expand due to climate change. “We are probably going to see a change in trends because of the climate changing and the temperatures rising,” Ballan said. “So there is a lot of concern in the infectious disease community about a lot of different infections, including amoebic infections becoming more common as the climate is warming.”
In an interview with AZFamily, Ballan further emphasized the importance of prevention. “It’s infrequent. Still, it isn’t worth the risk when prevention is so easy,” Ballan told AZFamily.
Early symptoms of PAM, which usually start five days after infection, include sudden fever, headache, and stiff neck. As the disease progresses, it can lead to severe illnesses like hallucinations and seizures.
Health officials recommend that swimmers and divers take precautions to prevent infection. These include not jumping or diving into the water, holding the nose or wearing nose clips, and keeping the head above water.
As the summer continues, Mohave County residents and visitors are urged to stay informed and take necessary precautions when enjoying the state’s beautiful lakes and rivers.
–Jeremy Webb

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