Skip to comments.Lake Havasu teen becomes sixth 2007 victim of brain-eating amoeba (NOT a joke)
Posted on 09/27/2007 5:06:32 AM PDT by radar101
It seemed like a headache, nothing more. But when pain killers and a trip to the emergency room didn't fix Aaron Evans, the 14-year-old asked his dad if he was going to die.
"No, no," David Evans remembers saying. "We didn't know. And here I am: I come home and I'm burying him."
What was bothering Aaron was an amoeba, a microscopic organism called Naegleria fowleri that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain. The doctors said he probably picked it up a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu.
Such attacks are extremely rare, though some health officials have put their communities on high alert, telling people to stay away from warm, standing water.
"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational water-born illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."
According to the CDC, Naegleria infected 23 people from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials say they've noticed a spike in cases, with six Naegleria-related cases so far - all of them fatal.
Though infections tend to be found in southern states, Naegleria has been found almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even some swimming pools. Still, the CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.
The amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose - say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff - the amoeba can latch onto the person's olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.
People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, Beach said. In the later stages, they'll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes.
Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.
"Usually, from initial exposure it's fatal within two weeks," Beach said.
Researchers still have much to learn about Naegleria, Beach said. For example, it seems that children are more likely to get infected, and boys are infected more often than girls. Experts don't know why.
"Boys tend to have more boisterous activities (in water), but we're not clear," he said.
In addition to the Arizona case, health officials reported two cases in Texas and three more in central Florida this year. In response, central Florida authorities started an amoeba telephone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water, or any areas with obvious algae blooms.
Texas health officials also have issued news releases about the dangers of amoeba attacks and to be cautious around water. People "seem to think that everything can be made safe, including any river, any creek, but that's just not the case," said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Lake Havasu City officials also are discussing how to deal with rare amoeba attacks in the wake of Aaron Evans' death. "Some folks think we should be putting up signs. Some people think we should close the lake," city spokesman Charlie Cassens said. City leaders haven't yet decided what to do.
Beach warned that people shouldn't panic about the dangers of brain-eating amoeba. Infections are extremely rare when compared with the number of times a year people come into contact with water. And there have been occasional years during the past two decades that experts noticed a similar spike in infections.
The easiest way to prevent infection, Beach said, is to simply plug your nose when swimming or diving in fresh water.
"You'd have to have water going way up in your nose to begin with" to be infected, he said.
David Evans has tried to learn as much as possible about amoebas during the past month. But it still doesn't make much sense. The questions keep swirling around his head. Why now? His family has gone to Lake Havasu countless times without a problem. Have people always been in danger? Did city officials know about amoebas? Can they do anything to kill them off?
"It's been pretty heavy-duty," he said.
Evans lives within eyesight of Lake Havasu, a bulging strip of the Colorado River that separates Arizona from California. Temperatures hover in the triple digits all summer, and like almost everyone else, the Evans family looks to the lake to cool off.
On Sept. 8, he brought Aaron, his two other children and his parents to Lake Havasu to celebrate his birthday. They ate sandwiches and spent a few hours splashing around one of the beaches.
"For a week, everything was fine," he said.
Then Aaron got the headache that wouldn't go away. Evans took him to the hospital, and doctors thought his son was suffering from meningitis. Aaron was rushed to another hospital in Las Vegas.
Evans tried to reassure his son, but he had no idea what was wrong. On Sept. 17, Aaron stopped breathing as David held him in his arms.
"He was brain dead," David said. Only later did doctors realize the boy had been infected with Naegleria.
"My kids won't ever swim on Lake Havasu again."
That’s it, I’ve had it. I’m moving to Greenland.
Oh great, Something else to fear.
geez.....can't resist adding THAT, can he? Just report on the facts, dude.
Damn...having a 13 & 12 yr old I can feel this family’s pain. Prayers out to them...I can’t even imagine.
This plug for global warming is brought to you by the Gore Carbon Trading Ponzi Scheme; James Hansen and George Soros co-treasurers.
Dreadful. May the young man rest in peace. Prayers for the family.
Judging from the pictures I saw, the lake should have been closed, Further more, the lake, due to extensive rain and cloud cover, had cooler water temps than what they would have been normally.
Exactly what I noticed and was going to post. Sheesh, just the facts, leave out your personal political religion.
“’In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.’...In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes.”
They left out the most important statistic: 99.99% of Demoncratic Party found to be infected.
They have several amoeba deaths here in Florida every year. Just had a couple in the past month. They warn against swimming in the lakes.
We were in Florida last month and this was on the news. Killed a kid in the Orlando area. I had never heard of it before. Disturbing.
I remember a story just like this from a lake or lakes in central Florida back around 1968 or 1969.
I stayed OUT of that lake!
I pray the family who suffered loss looks to the Lord for comfort and has Christian friends who can support them.
This next comment is off topic:
“The 2 Texas cases were from the same lake.....Lake LBJ near Marble Falls in the Hill Country. Severe flooding earlier in the summer left the lake covered with debris and spoiled by chemical and septic inflow.”
What did you expect from a lake named for the biggest sewer pipe in Texas history?
I have read about parasites in lakes in Africa like this, but in Arizona!
Wasn’t there a House episode on this?
I’ve always wondered about lake water. I don’t particularly enjoy the though of swimming in boat engine fluids and gasoline, fertlizer runoff, random sewage leakage and, now, ameobas.
Oh, my drinking water comes fom a lake.
Global Warming strikes again. Good grief.
You should see the frogs! 8 legs, etc.
That’s some nasty stuff.
The downstream bilge from Vegas??
Worth a wonder...
Was he destined for this career?
I know I sure wasn’t tempted to go lake swimming this year in central Texas. This article is a lot more informative than anything I’ve read locally following the 2 deaths in Lake LBJ.
Thanks for the positive suggestions. I train and swim in open water (state park lakes usually) and will adopt your recommendations.
I am a bit surprised at the apparent lack of treatment options, effective or not.
There have been a couple of cases from those swimming in the Tennessee River.
Problems are rare, but most folks have no idea that there is an Amoeba risk. Another elevated risk factor is late summer when the water is warmer.
Family of second Florida victim looking to sue the gubermint for not issuing stern enough warnings, according to some news reports.
“Thats it, Ive had it. Im moving to Greenland.”
Reminds me of a Vietnam vet that said he moved to Alaska to avoid
the creepy-crawlers (as he’d seen enough in Vietnam).
Moving to Greenland might be a good move; I saw a news report about
how tourism biz is thriving at one village there “because the ice
Of course, no mention about the Antarctic ice mass growing...
Global Warming will EAT YOUR BRAIN
If this deadly, simple-celled organism that destroys the brains of our children hasn’t yet been named, I’d like to offer my suggestion: NEA.
There is another point. These things don’t normally become active until the water temperature gets above 80 degrees, which in Florida usually means afternoons from June until late September. So in those times, swim in swimming pools or salt water, and for God’s sake do not wade and put your head under water swimming in that area!
Yes! I forgot to mention temperature which leads to an elevated risk in summer and especially in shallow lake shore water that is often luke warm.
Such is the hysteria over ameobas down here, when I scratched my cornea a few weeks ago while in my gym's swimming pool, my eye doctor had me on a course of strong antibiotics to keep me from developing any amoebic infection -- even though I'd been swimming in a freaksomely chlorinated public pool. The paranoia is at a fever pitch right now.
He just noted that temperatures were expected to rise. That's a fact. He didn't insinuate the rise was man-made. That would be fiction.
A friend of mine survived this disease.
He swam in very dirty swimming pool and became ill a few days later.
His doctor was treating him for a sinus infection.
The doctor sent him home where he had a seizure and was sent back to the emergency room.
He was rushed to a better hospital in the city that night where, after emergency brain surgery, he recovered.
This amoeba has long been a concern for people soaking in natural hot springs in the Southwest, but the better informed know to just avoid immersing their head in the water.
Please stay out of Lake Havasu if you value your brain!
I’ve seen this on our local news, we’ve had 3 or 4 kids die from it already.
I'll stick to the pool.
Deadly amoeba lurks in Florida lakes
ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) — Something in the lakes around Orlando, Florida, has claimed the lives of three boys this summer.
He didn't have to. It's a given. The debate is over.
Yeah, I heard the lefties had declared the debate over. I don't think any sane person can deny the warming though. I was in Alaska last year and was kind of sad to see how much the glaciers have receded. What used to be spectacular sheer walls of ice is now a rocky, muddy mess. But there's no proof it's manmade.
Did you see the story about the other creatures they found in another Texas lake?
I believe they were also amoebas which, are normally the size of a pencil eraser. These things grew to the size of dinner plates. Looked a little like those cabbage-head jellyfish you see at the coast.
I blame it on fertilizer runoff.