Naegleria fowleri is a Name You Should Talk About

Naegleria fowleri is a Name You Should Talk About


Naegleria-fowleri (N. fowleri) is not something discussed at many dinner tables.

But it should be.

N. fowleri is known more commonly by the suggestive “brain-eating amoeba,” says the Centers for Disease Control, which notes that it can only be contracted through the nose, typically when diving or submersing in water.

And about 97 percent of the people who are infected with this amoeba die from it.

It’s been found in three locations in Grand Teton National Park: Huckleberry Hot Springs, Polecat Springs, and Kelly Warm Spring. Also found was Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is not as deadly, but plenty yucky.

“Due to increased evidence of harmful pathogens we highly encourage individuals to avoid contact with these waters,” Grand Teton Superintendent David Vela said. “It is our responsibility to protect these geothermal resources within the park and parkway, provide for a safe experience for our visitors, and communicate our scientific findings, especially as it relates to the health and safety of our visitors.”

N. fowleri cannot be spread through drinking water or water vapor.

Since 1978, there are only four known cases of people surviving infection with N. fowleri–three in the United States and one in Mexico–which destroys brain tissue, causing swelling and ultimately death. An 18-year-old Ohio woman died in June after exposure to the amoeba on a church trip to North Carolina.

Most recently, 11-year-old Hannah Collins was swimming in the Edisto River near Charleston, S.C. and was exposed to the amoeba.

Less than two weeks later, though, her father, Jeff, held his daughter in her hospital bed, where she lay dying from the rare infection she contracted as she splashed in the water.

N. fowleri infections are extremely rare, but almost always deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recorded fewer than 150 U.S. cases since 1962.

Hannah died 12 days after she was exposed.