Brain-eating amoeba: What you need to know

You’ve been exposed to an alien invader. Unbeknownst to you, that’s made its way into your body by crawling through your nasal passages. By the time you realize you’re sick, it’s too late. The alien invader has already consumed half your brain. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s actually quite real.

Recently, an Ohio teenager died from Naeglaeria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba that loves warm water and that can be found all over the world.

UPDATE: U.S. National Whitewater Center tests positive for brain-eating amoeba, officials say

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the amoeba causes the disease primary amebic meningenocephalitis (PAM). Symptoms usually start about five days after infection and almost always result in death.


Symptoms of Naeglaeria fowleri include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  •  Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff Neck
  • Confusion
  • Lack of Attention to People and Surroundings
  • Loss of Balance
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations


Infection generally happens when you least expect it. That could mean a relaxing day splashing around the lake or taking a swim down river.


Right now, the CDC has no way to lower natural Naeglaria fowleri levels in lakes and rivers. They advise everyone to always assume low level of risk of Naegleria fowleri infection whenever they enter warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and hot springs, especially in the south.


Here's what the CDC recommend:

  • 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, including activities in warm water discharged from industrial plants.
  • Avoid putting your head under water in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperatures and low water levels.
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

More information is available by visiting