Free-living ameba (single-celled living organism) infections are rare and can cause a wide range of symptoms in people. Specific amebae known to cause infections in people include: Naegleria fowleri,Balamuthia mandrillaris, and Acanthamoeba spp.
Recently, a death in a school-aged child from the central region of Virginia was reported. The cause of death was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a free-living ameba called Naegleria fowleri. Naegleria can cause a very rare, but severe, infection of the brain. The ameba is commonly found in warm fresh water (for example, lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and soil. Only one species (type) of Naegleria infects people: Naegleria fowleri.
Naegleria fowleri infects people by entering the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm fresh water places, like lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources enters the nose. Once the ameba enters the brain, it usually causes a fatal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
For more information about free-living ameba infections and recreational water safety, please see the following resources:
Summer temperatures in Virginia normally climb into the upper 90’s and even reach over 100 degrees at times. People can suffer ill health effects when their body temperature control system is on overload. A person’s body temperature can shoot up when normal sweating cannot cool it quickly enough in extreme heat. Damage to the brain or other vital organs can result from very high body temperatures.
Summer sun can also present a health challenge. Recent research indicates that among Virginia adults, the number of deaths from and new cases of melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, have increased even as more adults report using sunscreen. This suggests that some people may not take proper measures to protect themselves from skin cancer. While you enjoy the outdoors this summer, remember to use sunscreen, seek shade, and wear sunglasses, a hat, and sun-protective clothing. Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, of 15 or higher. As sunscreen wears off, reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than 2 hours and after you swim or do things that make you sweat.
What you need to know:
More information on staying safe and healthy in hot weather: