NAPLES, Fla. — An amoeba that destroys brain tissue has been confirmed in an unidentified person in Florida, health officials say.
The Hillsborough County Department of Health announced the infection Friday.
The infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba.
The amoeba can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal.
Commonly found in warm freshwater — such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals — the amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain.
Infections usually occur when temperatures increase for prolonged periods, resulting in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
The peak season for the amoeba is July through September.
Very rarely, infections have been reported when people submerge their heads or get water up their nose, cleanse their noses during religious practices or irrigate their sinuses using contaminated tap or faucet water.
N. fowleri can grow in pipes, hot water heaters and water systems, including treated public drinking water systems.
One person contracted Naegleria fowleri in Hillsborough County. Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba. The amoeba can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal. pic.twitter.com/icT66tqlkU
— DOH – Hillsborough (@DOHHillsborough) July 3, 2020
Although rare, N. fowleri infections are almost always fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control. From 2009 to 2018, 34 infections were reported in the U.S.
Of those cases, 30 people were infected by recreational water, three people were infected after performing nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water and one person was infected by contaminated tap water used on a backyard slip-n-slide.
Initial symptoms of PAM typically start about five days after infection, according to the CDC.
The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea or vomiting. Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.
After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Brain-eating amoeba infects person in Hillsborough County, Florida