The Center for Disease Control and Preventions has confirmed that a Loogootee man died from a brain-eating amoeba that causes infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.
Daviess County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Geoff Stoner says this is naturally occurring amoeba.
“At the current time most of the lakes in Indiana probably do, it’s a natural occurring ameba, that is found in all fresh warm water and in soils, so is naturally in the environment. So it can be in any basically fresh body of water as long as the conditions are warmer,” Stoner says.
The amoeba is found in warm freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, poorly maintained swimming pools and water heaters. The amoeba thrives in high temperatures of up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and commonly occurs during the summer months.
Associate Professor at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs Todd Royer says there is no data to connect Global climate change with the amoeba but the drought over the past year may have contributed to warmer water.
“If you look historically at the number of cases it varies from year to year, there is no consistent increase that you can say is related to global climate change,” Royer says.
The amoeba infections are rare. The CDC reported only 32 cases in the last decade in the United States, but the disease has killed 99 percent of the infected patients, according to the CDC website.
John and Nancy Nelson Professor of Neurology at Indiana University, Karen L. Roos, says people with nasal inflation are more likely to be infected.
“People that have looked at a careful history of patients that have had amebic meningoencephalitis have found that they did have a rhinitis or preceding upper respiratory infection or were particularly allergy prone,” Roos says.
Dr. Roos says you can prevent infection by avoiding swimming in warm fresh water bodies and limiting the water going through your nose by wearing a nose clamp.
The Indiana State Department of Health does not usually test for the amoeba but swimmers and boaters should be aware of the risk.