July 6, 2015 6:47 am

Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills 21-Year-Old Woman

'Do Not Allow Water To Enter Your Nose' Amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) warning sign at thermal pool, Roger's Spring, Lake Mead, Nevada, U.S.A. (Photo by: Minden Pictures/AP Images)

A 21-year-old woman from Bishop, California, has reportedly died from a rare but deadly  infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba.

It started with headache when she woke up on June 16th, and soon began vomiting. After being unable to shake the symptoms within a day, the woman went to the hospital on June 17.

CBS Sacramento reported that the doctors first diagnosed her with meningitis. After her condition was getting worse, she was later flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, and soon died in the ER.

Tests done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have found evidence that the woman was infected by Naegleria fowleri, known commonly as the brain-eating amoeba.

Based on the test result, Inyo County public health officials told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the woman died after being infected brain-eating amoeba or Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba usually found in warm freshwater and soil.

It’s unclear how the woman was exposed to the amoeba. However, infections typically occur when the amoeba enters a person’s nose through contaminated water, and the fatality rate is nearly 98%. For example when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers. The Naegleria fowleri or brain-eating amoeba then travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue.

Brain-eating amoeba grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures. However, due to this brain-eating amoeba infection cannot be spread from one person to another.


Naegleria fowleri occurrence is common, but the infections are rare. In the past 10 years, only 35 brain-eating amoeba infections were reported in the U.S. Over 53 years since 1962, 133 cases of brain-eating amoeba infections has been reported; only 3 survived.

To protect yourself from Naegleria fowleri, the CDC recommends staying away from warm, untreated water. In particular, avoid submerging your head under such water or diving into it. Also avoid swimming in unchlorinated swimming pools, and if using a neti pot for nasal irrigation, use filtered or boiled water.