The person — whose name, age and gender have not been released — came into contact with the Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in freshwater, somewhere in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said. Because several potential exposure locations were possible, the agency could not determine the exact source of the infection.
The resident died of amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare disease of the central nervous system, caused by the amoeba. It is the second known case of the disease caused by Naegleria fowleri in Kansas, the first occurring in 2011. From 1962 to 2013, 132 cases reported in the United States, with 34 cases occurring from 2004 to 2013, the Kansas agency said. Most cases have occurred in Southern states.
The risk of infection is very low, but increases during the summer months when water temperatures rise and more people participate in water-related activities, the agency said. The infection typically occurs when the amoeba enters the body through the nose while the person is swimming underwater or diving and travels to the brain.
“We are very saddened to learn of this unfortunate circumstance, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends during this difficult time,” Robert Moser, Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary and state health officer, said. “It is important for the public to know that infections like these are extremely rare and there are precautions one can take to lower their risk — such as nose plugs.”
Symptoms usually appear about five days after infection, but can range between one and seven days, and include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance and bodily control, seizures, and hallucinations, according to the release. The infection cannot be spread from person to person or contracted from a properly maintained swimming pool.
Though the risk of infection is extremely low, the following precautions might decrease the possibility of infection:
• Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater;
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature; and
• Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
There is no known way to control the occurrence of Naegleria fowleri in freshwater lakes and rivers, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said.