Killer Amoeba Could be Lurking in Lakes and Rivers

A North Texas family is mourning the loss of their seven-year-old son who died just days after swimming in a Texas lake.

He was infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba, one that rarely has any survivors.

Now, state health officials are warning Texomans to take precautions when swimming in lakes and rivers this holiday weekend.

In 1998 a young child from Lawton traveled with his family to Lake Arrowhead, and later died after the child was infected while swimming.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been 33 reported cases in the US from 1998 to 2007, obviously a rare infection but it strikes quickly.

Waves from the water at Lake Arrowhead ripple and though there are no swimmers, this weekend, local lakes will see them as well as, skiers, and divers all unaware of the possible danger.

"It lives in stagnant water.  You usually see it in the warm summer months especially when water levels are low," said Lou Franklin, Director of Health with the Wichita County Public Health District.

It's called Naegleria Fowleri, an amoeba that enters the body through the nose or mouth of a person that eventually eats away at the brain.

 "It's a pretty scary thing," said Darren Hancock, father of a one and a half year old.  Hancock was completely unaware of the parasite lurking in rivers and lakes.

"It needs to be portrayed a little more often than usual.  If it's causing deaths I think it's pretty serious," he said.

Though a very rare type of disease once infected the chances of surviving are little to none.

"In 48 hours or so they'll have a headache in the front, nausea, vomiting and fever," said Franklin.

She advises to hold your nose under the water or wear nose clips.  A preventative measure Hancock will use when taking his son to lakes and rivers.

 "Just try to regulate how often they go under water."

Because of the rain we have been seeing lake levels are doing very well right now, there are no reports of shallow, stagnant water.

The amoeba is not found in swimming pools that are properly cleaned and treated with chlorine, nor is it found in salt water.