Each summer I end up writing about a handful of tragic deaths – mostly of children – due to PAM (Primary amebic meningoencephalitis) caused by an amoebic parasite called Naegleria Fowleri.
Until a few years ago, nearly all of the Naegleria infections reported in the United States were linked to swimming in warm, stagnant freshwater ponds and lakes (see Naegleria: Rare, 99% Fatal & Preventable)
In 2011, however, we saw two cases reported in Neti pot users from Louisiana, prompting the Louisiana Health Department to recommend that people `use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution’ (see Neti Pots & Naegleria Fowleri).
In 2013, we saw a 4 year-old infected through contact with the municipal water supply while visiting St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Since then testing has revealed Naegleria in a number of municipal water supplies across the state of Louisiana (see Louisiana: 2nd Public Water System Reports Naegleria).
Up until a recently, infection with Naegleria Fowleri was universally fatal, but in 2013 an investigational drug called miltefosine was used successfully for the first time to treat the infection. Early diagnosis, and administration of this drug, are crucial however.
Tomorrow, Florida Hospital For Children in Orlando will sponsor a day-long symposium that will bring together clinicians and specialists to spread awareness about the risks, diagnosis, treatment, and research associated with this rare, but deadly infection.
For those unable to attend, the event will be live streamed at http://www.hospitalchurch.org/livestream.
While several states (including Florida) promote Naegleria awareness each summer, one of the best resources available online is http://amoeba-season.com/, a USF Philip T. Gompf Memorial Fund project, which was set up by a pair of Florida doctors who tragically lost their 10 year-old son to this parasite in 2009.
You can also follow this site on twitter at @AmoebaSeason.
For some of my earlier blogs on Naegleria you may wish to revisit: