Brain-Eating Amoeba at Water Parks - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A New Jersey man died from what officials suspect is a brain-eating amoeba he picked up at a Texas water park last month, and it’s not the only time this has happened. For the past several years, the news has been sprinkled with stories of people who have died as a result of amoeba in water parks, including a teen in North Carolina, a young girl in Arkansas and an Ohio woman.

So what is this amoeba, and is it safe to go to water parks?

Naegleria Fowleri: What You Need to Know

You might have heard of the deadly amoeba that’s been found in many water parks and public swimming areas – it’s called Naegleria fowleri, and it’s not dangerous on its own. In fact, you won’t even get sick if you drink water that’s been contaminated with it.

The problem arises when the water gets into your nose and travels up to your brain.

When the amoeba, which is found in warm freshwater, improperly chlorinated pool water, heated tap water and soil, gets into your brain, it causes swelling and death.

But still, there have been fewer than 150 cases of Naegleria fowleri infections since 1962 in the U.S. While the illness is about 97 percent fatal, it’s still not a huge risk to most swimmers.

Health officials say you can limit your risk by:

  • Taking steps to prevent water from going up your nose. You can hold your nose shut, use nose clips or simply keep your head above water when you’re in warm freshwater.
  • Avoiding getting in the water when it’s warm and water levels are low.
  • Avoiding digging up sediment from the bottom of the water when you’re in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

What Do You Think?

I feel like the risk of illness from Naegleria fowleri is extremely low, and I wouldn’t let it stop me from having fun in the water – but I might take extra precautions. What do you think? Will you stop playing in warm freshwater lakes or going to water parks? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino