9 things to know about brain-eating amoebas

ORLANDO, Fla. — Brain-eating amoeba infections are rare and deadly.

This week, AdventHealth announced it had developed a new test that speeds up the ability to detect infections to hours instead of days. Read more about the tests here.


Below are nine things to know about the brain-eating amoeba, naegleria fowleri, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

See: 9 things to know about brain-eating amoebas

1. From 2012 to 2021, 31 infections were reported in the U.S. All but three were fatal.

Read: How to avoid the brain-eating amoeba sometimes found in warm freshwater lakes

2. Naegleria fowleri is found around the world, often in warm or hot freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs.

3. Infection can also come from using contaminated drinking water to cleanse nasal passages during religious practices, using contaminated tap water in a neti pot or other device to rinse their sinuses through the nose, or getting the contaminated water up their nose during recreational play.

Read: New test can detect deadly brain-eating amoeba infections in hours instead of days

4. The amoeba can travel up the nose and into the brain. According to the CDC, this causes the disease primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue and causes brain swelling and death.

5. The CDC says of 154 people known to be infected in the U.S. from 1962 to 2021, only four people survived.

6. Symptoms can be mild at first, but they worsen quickly.

• They usually start about five days after infection (but can range from one to 12 days)

• Can include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting

• Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations

• After symptoms start, the disease causes death within about five days (but can range from one to 18 days)

Read: CDC: No brain-eating amoeba detected in Florida teenager

7. The CDC says young boys are most at risk for naegleria fowleri infections. While the reasons are unclear, young boys might participate in more water activities like diving and playing in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers.

8. Recreational water-associated infections occur most often in July, August, and September, when temperatures are high for prolonged periods of time, causing water temperatures to rise, the CDC says.

9. The CDC says the only certain way to prevent an infection is to avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater. If you choose to swim, you can reduce your risk of infection by limiting the amount of water that goes up the nose.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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