Brazos River Authority: Simple steps reduce risk of deadly freshwater amoeba

There is more than one reason to avoid breathing in water while swimming in Lake Granbury or the Brazos River this summer.

Primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, is a rare and usually fatal infection of the brain caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. The amoeba enters the body when contaminated water is forced into the nasal passages, usually from diving or jumping into water, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.  The amoeba makes its way into the brain and spinal cord, destroying brain tissue, according to the release.

Symptoms of an infection include a severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, seizures and hallucinations as the condition worsens. 

Here are some ways to reduce the risk of infection:

• Use nose plugs or hold your nose shut when jumping, skiing, diving or wakeboarding in any fresh water.

• Some swim masks can offer protection.

• Avoid putting your head underwater in hot springs and other warm freshwater bodies.

• Amoeba is often found in soil, so avoid stirring up underwater sediment.

• Avoid stagnant or polluted water and take “No Swimming” signs seriously.

• Saltwater, as well as swimming pools and hot tubs that are properly cleaned, maintained and chlorinated, are generally safe.

• If using a Neti-Pot or syringe for nasal irrigation, be sure to use only sterile, distilled or lukewarm previously boiled water.