According to health officials, a 21 year old woman died after she contracted a rare type of amoeba that attacked and eventually destroyed her brain. The woman was 21 years old and lived in Bishop, California.
Public health officials from Inyo County released a statement saying that the woman was infected with a brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic organism that usually lives in warm soil and freshwater.
The identity of the woman was not disclosed, but according to her family, before her death, she started to experience symptoms like nausea, headache and vomiting. The woman was taken to the Northern Inyo Hospital where the doctors diagnosed her with meningitis, but because her condition got worse, she was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada. The doctors said they were unable to save her and the woman died in the emergency room.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the woman was infected with the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, which was the real cause of her death. No one knows for sure how the woman contracted the amoeba, but experts say this type of infection happens after swimming in warm freshwaters like rivers and lakes. People can also get infected with this amoeba by getting water from poorly-maintained swimming pools into their nose. The brain-eating amoeba rarely infects tap water, experts said.
According to the microbiologists, this amoeba makes its way into a human’s brain through a nerve found in the nose. It then moves through the cribiform plate, which is a bony plate inside the skull, and goes right to the brain, attacks it and destroys it, causing the death of the patient.
Once a patient is infected with the amoeba and begins to experience the symptoms, the patient usually dies in about five days.
Experts say that infections with this type of amoeba are very rare. In the United States, there have been 133 reported cases with this infection in the past 53 years. While the risk of contracting the brain-eating amoeba is low, once someone gets infected, the risk of dying is extremely high. According to medical reports, only three people survived this rare infection so far.
Health officials believe the woman had contracted the infection on private property, so any potential risk for the general public is very low. In order to protect oneself from contracting the amoeba, one must avoid swimming in warm, untreated freshwater.
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