Visitor to Iowa Infected by 'Worst Parasite in the World'

Health officials testing lake in Taylor County after Missouri resident infected by brain-eating amoeba
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2022 12:52 PM CDT
Visitor to Iowa Infected by 'Worst Parasite in the World'
This combo of images shows the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in different stages.   (AP Photo/Centers for Disease Control)

A lake beach in southwest Iowa has been temporarily shuttered after a visitor from a neighboring state was infected by a rare but dangerous brain-eating amoeba. A Friday release from the Iowa Department of Public Health notes that the beach at Lake of Three Fires State Park is currently off-limits as a "precautionary response" after a Missouri resident swam in the lake there and then was later diagnosed with primary amebic meningoencephalitis, a "devastating" and usually fatal illness caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, per the CDC.

"It's the worst parasite in the world that we know of because it causes such devastating pathology," University of Georgia research scientist Christopher Rice tells CBS News, which notes that if the patient is confirmed to have contracted the infection from the Lake of Three Fires, it would be Iowa's first ever case. Other states nearby, including Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota, have all recorded cases. The patient is currently in intensive care, and Iowa health officials and the CDC are testing the lake's waters to confirm the amoeba's presence.

That testing could take a few days to finish, per the release. Naegleria fowleri is typically found in warm fresh water, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs, and swimmers become infected when water gets up their noses. Initial symptoms of PAM include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting, which can then progress to a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, and coma, per the CDC. The agency stresses that one can't be infected by the amoeba by swallowing contaminated water. (More brain-eating amoeba stories.)

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