Swimmer contracts ‘rare’ infection in Texas lake and dies, officials say. What to know

A Texas resident died after contracting a rare infection in a lake outside of Austin, officials said.

The resident, who has not been identified, developed amebic meningitis after swimming in Lake Lyndon B. Johnson sometime in August, according to an Aug. 30 news release from the City of Austin.

“Although these infections are very rare, this is an important reminder that there are microbes present in natural bodies of water that can pose risks of infection,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in the release.

What is amebic meningitis?

Amebic meningitis is an uncommon illness caused by an amoeba, a single-celled organism that is undetectable to the naked eye, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The amoeba that causes the infection is called Naegleria fowleri, according to the CDC, but it is often referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba.” It is found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as rivers, lakes and hot springs.

The organism enters the human body through the nose before traveling to the brain, where it destroys tissue and triggers swelling, according to the CDC.

Early symptoms of the infection include a headache, nausea and fever, while later symptoms include confusion, seizures and coma.

How to prevent it

In order to prevent potential infection, avoid entering freshwater bodies during particularly warm periods, Texas officials said.

When swimming, people should also try to stop water from entering the nose.

“Hold your nose shut, use nose clips or keep your head above water when taking part in warm freshwater-related activities,” officials said.

People should also avoid stirring up the sediment in freshwater bodies, officials said.

Still, the likelihood of contracting the infection is incredibly rare. There have only been 39 known cases in Texas over the past 60 years, officials said.

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