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Brain-eating amoebas: What you need to know

HOUSTON – In one year, two Houston area teenagers have died from the infection known as Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, which is caused by what we know as the brain-eating amoeba.

Hudson Adams, a recent high school graduate was working as a camp lifeguard. The director of the camp said Hudson felt sick over the weekend with flu-like symptoms. He was transferred to a local hospital on Monday then flown to Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center, where he later died.

Similar symptoms sent 14-year-old Michael Riley to the emergency room last August after jumping into a lake in the Sam Houston National Forest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said you cannot get infected from swallowing contaminated water. The amoeba enters the brain when water goes up the nose, so it may travel easier inside someone diving head first into water.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said that, in order to avoid coming in contact with the amoeba, you should:

Avoid water-related activities in freshwater during periods of high temperatures and low water levels

  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment in shallow areas.
  • If you use a Neti Pot or syringe for nasal irrigation, be sure to use only sterile, distilled or lukewarm, previously-boiled water.

The amoeba is found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is not found in saltwater, or pools properly treated with chlorine.