Dangerous Naegleria amoeba lurks in Florida lakes, ponds

11:20 AM, Jun 20, 2013   |    comments
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Microscopic image of the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleria.



PALATKA, Florida (WTLV) -- The Florida Department of Health says there are tiny parasites found in freshwater areas, such as lakes and ponds -- and they could be deadly. 

The parasite is a dangerous amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

The amoeba can get into your body through your nose, and then make their way to the brain.

Once in the brain, it creates an infection called amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM for short. It's usually fatal within five days.

Symptoms include confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance, seizure and hallucinations.

Health experts said the amoeba grows in the muck on the bottom of lakes or ponds, so they recommend not stirring up the bottom.

Experts also recommend people keep their head out of the water or hold their nose.

Swimmers at Lake Broward in Pomona Park put on plenty of sunscreen to protect against the sun but didn't know about the deadly amoeba. 

"I normally plug my nose all the time because I can't stand the water in my nose," said swimmer Keely Wheeler.

Wheeler's home county of Putnam along with Baker County have seen fatal cases of the disease in the last few years.

But Shannon Thomas said swimming in lakes always carries risks.

"Snakes, gators! There's no telling," Thomas said. 

She said she won't change her ways even after hearing about the amoeba.

If you plan to swim in lakes or ponds, here are some, First for You tips:

-Keep your head above water, or hold your nose or even get nose plugs.

-Be careful if you plan on swimming in the following areas:

  • St. Johns River
  • Ichetucknee Springs
  • Ginnie Springs
  • Blue Springs
  • Hanna Park
  • Santa Fe River
  • Manatee Springs State Park
  • Lake Butler
  • St. Mary's river fish camp and campground
  • Pottsburg Creek

-The health department said you should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms after swimming in freshwater:

  • Headache 
  • Fever
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Indigestion
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal cramps

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