Like some kind of microscopic zombie it crawls in your nose while you’re swimming, goes directly up to your brain and begins feasting on your brain matter until you die a painful death less than seven days later. It is undetectable, nearly incurable and has killed at least three people in as many months. Its name is naegleria fowleri and it is easily the scariest thing lurking in pools of fresh water across America.
A nine-year old Virginia boy has become the latest to fall victim to the illness known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by naegleria fowleri. A teenager from Florida died last week and a Louisiana man died in June of the same disease.
Victims suffer from a range of excruciating symptoms such as headache, fever, anorexia, vomiting, altered mental status, and finally coma. Death follows soon afterward – sometimes within is little as seven days finally relieving patients from what is no doubt a terribly painful way to die.
“It is so tragic for families,” Virginia state epidemiologist Dr. Keri Hall told The New York Post. “It’s important not to minimize how hard it is for the families to cope with the situation.”
Although often misdiagnosed as bacterial meningitis, Hall says that occasionally the organism can be found swimming in the samples of brain fluid drawn from the patients’ spines. However out of the 121 documented cases of the illness found dating back to 1937 there has only been one known survivor.
According to a 1982 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, a 9-year-old California girl was treated after she came into contact with the miniature killers while vacationing at the hot springs in the San Bernardino National Forest.
While no cure was mentioned, Hall said that in the meantime swimmers should be aware of the risk, especially during periods of no rain and high temperatures and avoid swimming in stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water.