You've Got What? Amoebic meningoencephalitis infection
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Amoebic meningoencephalitis is an infection of the brain and the membranes covering the brain (which are called the meninges). It is caused by an amoeba (a microscopic single-celled organism) called Naegleria fowleri.
The amoeba that causes the infection occurs in shallow surface waters and incorrectly maintained swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, particularly in warm climates. Swimming in salt water has not been associated with this disease.
Infection occurs when infected water enters the nose. This can happen when diving, jumping or swimming in fresh water. The amoeba then invades the brain and meninges through the nose. This is a rare disease affecting mainly young, active people. It is almost always fatal.
Symptoms may include:
The infection is diagnosed by examining the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid: the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord), as the amoeba causing the infection is visible under a microscope.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Usually 3 to 7 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Person-to-person spread does not occur.
Swift diagnosis and treatment with specific antibiotics may be useful, but recovery is rare.
For more information about maintenance of private swimming pools and spas, contact the Environmental Health Officer at your local council.