Brain-Eating Ameba Fears Close Southwest Iowa Lake, Missourian Infected

The state of Iowa announced the Lake of Three Fires beach in Taylor County is closed because of the confirmed brain infection of a Missouri resident who recently visited the beach.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are conducting tests at the southern Iowa beach to confirm whether the ameba that causes the infection can be found in the water there. The press release announcing the closure said the testing could take several days to complete.

There are no other known infections being investigated in Missouri or Iowa. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with the other entities to provide updates.

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The rare brain infectionprimary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)comes from the Naegleria fowleri ameba, which can be found in any warm freshwater in the United States. The ameba enters the body through the nose and travels up to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue.

PAM is nearly always fatal, and it cannot be spread person-to-person or by swallowing contaminated water.

Only 154 known cases of PAM have been identified since 1962. There are only five known survivors in North America, four in the United States and one in Mexico.

In 2013, two children with the infection survived. One made a full recovery while the other likely has permanent brain damage. A teenager in 2016 also survived and made a full recovery.

The Missouri resident is currently in the intensive-care unit.

Symptoms occur in two stages and can include severe headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, altered mental state, and hallucinations. Anyone who experiences these symptoms after swimming in a warm body of water should contact their health care provider immediately.

According to the CDC, symptoms start 1-9 days after exposure and death happens 1-18 days after symptoms begin. Both usually happen at the five-day point.


Nikoel Hytrek

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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