ORLANDO (CBS Tampa) — A Brevard County teen was hospitalized after an amoeba is believed to have infected her brain while she was swimming in a local river.

The young girl, identified in numerous reports as 16-year-old Courtney Nash, is currently listed in critical condition, officials said.

Barry Inman, an epidemiologist with the Brevard County Health Department, told CBS Tampa that the very rare infection, known as amoebic meningoencephalitis, has not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, but that officials believe a positive test will be returned any day.

“We got a result from the hospital in Orlando and they did a spinal tap on her, and they looked on the cerebral spinal fluid and they saw the amoeba. So we’re confident that this is a hospital that has some experience with this organism, and we’re confident about what the diagnosis is,” he said.

Inman said there are typically fewer than five cases a year in the entire country, and that only one person has survived the infection since the 1970s. Doctors treat it with anti-fungal medications and antibiotics.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida’s last confirmed case came in 2009.

“We have like one or two maybe a year. Sometimes we go a few years without having any cases in the United States, so it’s rare when it occurs, but when it occurs it’s not good,” Inman said.

Amoebic meningoencephalitis occurs often during very hot weather and is contracted in stagnant freshwater. “The water, because of jumping or swimming or whatever may occur, has to go up the nose into the nasal passages, into the sinuses, and into the brain,” Inman said. “In the brain you’ve got a lot of cerebral spinal fluid, you’ve got glucose, you’ve got protein, it’s just the perfect environment to proliferate and grow.”

Officials urge swimmers to avoid swimming in bodies of freshwater. Those who do should wear nose plugs or hold their nose when they jump or dive in.

Comments (95)
  1. Mike says:

    The Indian River isn’t really a river, it’s just a name for a stretch of the Intercoastal Waterway.

    That’s on the east coast of the State of Florida.

    Just figured the reporter was a transplant and didn’t know…..

    1. dean says:

      Thank you for the geography lesson. There is also the Banana River and the St. John’s which is not part of the inter coastal. They don’t indicate which river, which bother me, but my bet is on the St. John’s. And who isn’t a transplant in the State of Florida?

    2. Mark Matis says:

      This was on the St. Johns River. My info says the State has done analysis of the river between Melbourne and SR 46, and the ENTIRE river has significant amoeba problems. Note that amoeba have been a problem in warm, stagnant bodies of water – retention ponds holding runoff water, for example, but not retention ponds that are dug deep enough to penetrate the upper aquifer (usually about 10-15 feet below grade in much of Florida). That the St. Johns River is so infested says something about the management of that river by the St. Johns River Water Management District…

    3. Clark Nova says:

      And its also too saline to host meningoencephalitis amoebae.

    4. JuanValdez says:

      Intra Coastal

  2. Melissa in NorCal says:

    Uncommon here in USA and extremely uncommon among girls. Most victims die. I hope she makes it. Sad situation.

  3. Johnny P. says:

    Isn’t that a photo of a paramecium?

    1. Rich Bianchi says:

      Yes sir, that most certainly is. However I suppose for the sake of finding a quick picture of a microorganism anything would do.

    2. Jay says:

      No photo here. I see no paramecium.

  4. PH says:

    Aren’t there alligators & snakes in those rivers??

    1. katydid says:

      Yes, there is alligators, manetees and snakes in those rivers – poisoneous snakes at that. Here in Florida during the summer it really isn’t recommended to swim in the lakes or the rivers – it is hot, humid which only helps very, very bad things to grow.

      1. Rich Bianchi says:

        If you think about it, we only consider them bad because they can harm us. By nature, none of the aforementioned things are actually bad.

      2. dr Suess says:

        Are you drunk? THis family will likely lose their child. NATURE is not more important than a human life.
        When you have lost a child , you can come back and tell us how the disease/truck/bullet was not bad…just bad cuz it killed your loved one. What an insensitive boob.

      3. PowerPC says:

        Man how nit-picky and insensitive can a person get? Yeah it is BAD period!! You are jerk for pretending otherwise. I guess you are one of those tree hugging liberals that thiink animals and insects or even single cell amoebas in this case have emotions, feelings lilke humans. Then you turn around and try to convince us that people are not a part of the natural state of the earth. It is like you people think we are aliens or something. I hope you remember your own statement the next time you are sick with a life threatening bacterial infection. After all the bacteria will not be bad and it has a right to live just as much as you do.

      4. Zhemin says:

        Yes. I agree with you. The insensitivity that some people show towards others of their own species is reprehensible. I hope that she survives. I also hope that we can learn something from this that will better enable the next victim to survive, because there are always more victims.

      5. Happydots says:

        Yes, yes they are. These organisms want nothing more than to munch on brain tissue when given the chance. They don’t decide, “Hey, I think I’ll take a day off and not obliterate this girl’s cerebral cortex, I need to find the exit.” Sorry, your Zen stops here.

      6. John Potts says:

        So much for our resident BS machine. Go talk to a Philosophy proffessor.

      7. Mighty Righty says:

        Rich Bianchi: Thanks for explaining that to us. Extraordinarily sensitive and enlighted. More importantly, please explain it again to the girl’s family. They may not be sensitive or enlightened enough to realize that the amoeba killing her isn’t ACTUALLY bad.

      8. ih8celebs says:

        Will you quit picking on Bianchi while he’s demonstrating his ‘Zenner than thou’ Enlightenment!!!!

      9. Herb Cane says:

        The cottonmouth is the only snake in Florida that you have to worry about inhabiting the water. Sure, you may come across the occasional rattlesnake or coral snake taking a dip but they will attempt to flee from you. Now the cottonmouth, that’s one mean, nasty, aggressive snake.

  5. Kae says:

    What she likely has:

    Naegleria fowleri

    Sad to say but she won’t survive, and in the extrememly rare chance she does, she’ll have permanent severe brain. My thoughts are with the family.

  6. Kae says:

    That should be permanent severe brain damage.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    I had a brain infection 30 years ago. I can’t remember what they used to fight it.

    1. Rich Bianchi says:

      That was just epic! I love that comment! “I had a brain infection 30 years ago. I can’t remember what they used to fight it.” I am surprised you would remember anything from that sir. Clearly it was a different part of the brain but the comment was a hoot anyway.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    P.S. There was damage to the bottom of my brain. I couldn’t walk or talk. I had very poor coordination. It is the cerebellum that will suffer the damage. It took me a full year, but I recovered. They had told me that they did not know how much or if I would recover, but I was determined. They said that other brain cells will take over the damaged ones, but that we’ll have to wait and see.
    I hope that she has a full recovery.

  9. Dr. Michael Ritota says:

    We see this type of infection in Mexico frequently and use metronidazole (Flagyl I.V. with rapid results.

    Dr. Michael Ritota Jr. Md
    Guadalajara, Jalisco MEXICO

    1. Bfman says:

      Maybe you oughta phone that one in?!? Just saying…

    2. Andy says:

      Bull. This isn’t amebic dysentery, it’s meningitis, probably Naegleria. Even amphotercin is rarely effective.

      1. Doc emmet brown says:

        Yes and the survival rate is 3 percent so I doubt it is that effective in Mexico or anywhere else.

  10. Fred says:

    This same ameoba exists in the Boiling River in Yellowstone NP. It is just inside of the North Entrance to the park, near the 45th parallel sign.
    They have a warning sign about it “DO NOT expose your head to this water by any means (for example, immersion, splashing, or touching your face.)

    We took the warning to heart, but we did venture out into the water. There is a great spot where the hot and cold mix together. You can regulate the tempature and really get a relaxing jacuzzi effect. Really nice after backpacking and camping for a few weeks.

    1. John Foster says:

      All natural hot springs have this ameoba. When in them, do not submerge your head.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    LOL. Yeah. Back then I was around fresh water swimming holes, and drinking. They did have to send my blood across the US looking for what it was. If I remember correctly, they told me that they didn’t find out what it was at the time, but they loaded me up on a drug. It caused me to lose 10 pounds fast and I was skinny already. This reminds me of how grateful I should be, and to pursue the rest of my life with great fervor.

    1. LUNABINdotcom says:

      great attitude sir

  12. Zhemin says:

    This is so sad for the family. Anyone with an interest in some of the stranger things that are reported definitely should visit LUNABIN dot COM. They get reports from all over the world of things that people would otherwise never have heard of.

  13. FN Cee says:

    When you jump, wade or crawl into any water, especially in the south in the summer, you jump, wade or crawl into a “watery soup” which is alive with all kinds of nasty stuff … which can make you sick and/or dead … this amoeba sounds about as nasty as it gets. May be better to stand under a hose, run through your sprinklers, take a cool bath or find a pool with regular service … Yeah I know … not profound … but no more swimming in these places for my kids … awful example …

    1. Jimmy says:

      There has to be some reason that only 5 cases of the millions upon millions of people that swim in lakes and fresh water rivers who get the water up their noses and nothing ever happens to them. They should be studying to find out why this small percentage of the population’s brains become home for the amoeba and comfy enough to reproduce causing the illness. Maybe there is a deficiency with their white blood cells, who knows?

      1. John Potts says:

        We may not be a “natural” host. Also our bodies have rigorous defense sysytems that we are only just learning about. There may be a need for a break in the skin or entry through a nasal membrane.. Who really knows at this point. But know this, there are all kinds of “bad nasties” that want to invade you. Children seem to be more susceptable.

    2. Jack says:

      Not if you are swimming in springs, or a river flowing directly from a spring. You can drink that water no problem.

      1. John Potts says:

        Jack. You are in error about flowing water. There are many things you can get from flowing, clean looking water. Former Army survival instructor and a degree in Biology with an emphasis in parasites. With repect.

      2. Satchel says:

        Jack, not true. I contracted one heck of a parasite in the Weeki Wachee River in Florida about nine years ago. Back then, no one knew what I had regardless of seeing many specialists and infectious disease control physicians. I called them “skin poppers” because tiny little bits of what I can only describe as”bug pieces” were popping through the pores in my skin each time I would take a hot bath. I collected as much as I could in a specimen jar and my doctor sent it off to a lab. They were stumped. I lost 25 lbs., had a low-grade fever and my blood pressure went up for the first time in my life. The entire episode lasted about three weeks until they they gave me something equal to what they spray on the lawn for bugs after I failed to respond to traditional parasitic medicine. Doc said I could only take the medicine one time (a single pill/dose) because it is so strong another dose would damage my organs. He said if that didn’t work he didn’t know what he was going to do. It worked. “Pieces” started popping through my skin two hours after taking the medicine and I didn’t even have to submerge myself in hot water to get them moving. I knew the drug worked because these pieces were black (those that came out in the bath were brown and slightly reddish) and in four days I was back to normal. The worst part? They never identified exactly what it was, even with the half-full specimen jar I gave them. They determined it was some subcutaneous, parasitic worm and the doc eventually deduced that I contracted it by peeing in the river. That’s right, it swam up through the urethra after noticing my urine stream in the water (doc said when you pee in the water it looks like a river of gold to bacteria) and somehow multiplied under the layers of skin after making its way there. Be careful. Those springs can harbor serious bacteria. Weeki Wachee is a Class I magnitude spring, beautiful, refreshing … and full of bad stuff ever since the new construction of homes began. Contractors are dumping and draining stuff into the springs every day. And don’t pee in the water!

  14. dudefromdixie says:

    This comment , “Officials urge swimmers to avoid swimming in bodies of freshwater. “, is somewhat irresponsible, don’t you think? Maybe the person quoted should have inserted the word “stagnant” in front of freshwater. So this imbecilde really expects people to not swim in freshwater? Our government’s finest at work, and paid well for it, I assume.

    1. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi says:


      1. Deena says:

        Double agree.

  15. caprill says:

    when I was 12, one of my brother’s good friends died of the same thing swimming in the same body of water. As a native Floridian, you could not pay me to immerse myself in any body of water there that did not contain chlorine…. maybe the occasional splash in the waves…. but other than that, gators? cotton mouths, amoebas…. NO THANKS!!!

  16. James D says:

    @Rich Bianchi: When Amoebas invent their own language I’m sure their word for bad will mean things that are bad for Amoebas; meanwhile when humans are talking with other humans, parasitic single-celled organisms that kill swimmers will certainly be something that will fall under the label “bad,” for all except complete knuckleheads.

    Meanwhile, I’m not going to let it keep me from swimming in lakes and rivers where I live in NJ, and other places that freeze up in winter. I suspect such parasites are much more likely to lurk in water that never freezes all year…

    1. James D says:

      Oh, and of course I wish this young lady the best. I hope she makes it through and avoids the serious damage.

  17. Jessica says:

    My prayers go out to this family. God bless.

  18. johneb says:

    Hey Philosopher Bianchi, put the bong down and pull your head out. “Bad” in this context means damaging/lethal to humans, this poor girl in particular. It isn’t some moral judgment about a life form.

  19. mondo says:

    This usually hits youngsters while adults in the same area don’t seem to be affected. I’ve always wonders if things like alcohol consumption kill these things. Lots of ETOH fumes go out through the sinuses. Maybe a type of organic fumigation along with alcohol content in the brain might be wiping them out.

  20. Dale says:

    If you swim in the springs where the water is cold and clear you won’t have to worry about it, but when you swim in the rivers and lakes you are taking a deadly risk.

    1. Jimmy says:

      You take a deadly risk when you step outside your home. You just need to know what are the attributes of the watershed that feed the body of freshwater before you swim in it. Does a large city drain into it? Do a lot of cattle pastures drain into it? Are there domestic waste water or industrial discharges into the watershed? The information is out there you just have to know where to look. Contact your state’s department of natural resources, environmental protection agency, or conservation department and learn all you can about a body of freshwater before you swim or wade it or eat fish you have caught from it.

  21. Miriam Delaney says:

    I am so…. sorry for this family. I hope they caught it in time and she is healed! Unfortunately,we see this happen during our hot Texas summers, someone goes swimming in hot stagnant water. The amoeba enters through their nose and they end up in the news. Praying for the family!!!

  22. John H says:

    My prayers are with this family. Who would think something so innocent as jumping in a warm lake can be so deadly?

  23. Brian says:

    Someone was speculating on why this infection is so much more prevalent in young folks than in adults. My own opinion is that it is due to the fact that adults are much more adept at keeping water from entering their noses. When my children are swimming in my parents’ pool, it is incredible to see the amount of water that comes out of their noses after they jump in. Adults and other experienced swimmers can plug their noses without using their hands or a nose-clip, thereby preventing water from entering their noses. The fact is, the amoeba likely responsible for this infection (Naegleria fowleri) can only enter the brain if water is insufflated very deeply into the nose.

  24. Kay says:

    Everyone who took time out to comment here have both rightfully and equally explained their views cognitively and it seems with deep emotions related to one another from their previous experiences. This was very helpful and added information to the author’s original piece of work. I appreciate having the opportunity to read these manicured non-vulgar or disrespectful responses. They gave me a more rounded understanding of this recent and very relevant event. Truely, thank you all.

    1. Stephanie Holder says:

      *truly, miss big words.

      1. Johnny small words says:


      2. genetics73 says:

        Thank you – I love it when big egos and pretentiousness get deflated:).

  25. Tino Mazz says:

    After growing up on the far west side of Coral Springs just a quarter mile or so from the Glades you were taught in school and on TV not to go into the canals or still water because of the possibility of Amoeba poisoning, as they put it. It’s just a fact of life in Florida and other parts of the deep south. It’s unfortunate that this girl was infected but it’s my guess that she had been made aware of the danger somewhere along the way.

  26. Alice Polarbear says:

    I wish this poor girl the best. I think I saw the same infection covered in one of the “Dr G” episodes on the late, lamented Discovery Health. That kid died.

    I hope and pray that this girl survives and comes back to full function

  27. Jon says:

    pray for her restored health, in Jesus name

  28. Jane says:

    I think my Aunt Ruth died of this about 30 years ago. She was a northern transplant

  29. katy says:

    Every summer hundreds of kids drown in oceans, rivers, lakes, and pools. Though this disease is scary, the occurrence is so much more rare than any number of water related deaths.

    1. Roberta Kline says:

      Katy – apples and oranges. Comparing this amoeba incident to drowning is folly as it has no relation. The incidents are quite more prevalent than one may think. We hear about it just about every year here in Florida. Officials tell us that if one is going to swim in freshwater to swim in colder springs and rivers as the odds of contracting the bug is much less. This bug loves stagnant and/or warm water. At the end of this article CBS staffers wrote, “Officials urge swimmers to avoid swimming in bodies of freshwater” but failed to say what officials issued this warning. I think it was ad-libbed because I live in Florida and follow these situations very closely and while I’ve heard warning I have yet to hear any official say stay out of the freshwater. Do you know how many parks and other attractions would be affected?

  30. PIPE welder says:

    We were just talking of this type if parasitic attack. Recalling a incedent in a mountian lake a teen sturring the algee sedements then doing back flips, water up his nose dead 7 days later…… We were discussing this as awarness…BE AWARE and make your children aware …. DONT KISS YOUR BASS EITHER… protasoic infection

  31. Spanky says:

    I wonder if Barry swam in this river or one like it in Indonesia?

  32. genetics73 says:

    It is all GW Bush’s fault

    1. Spanky says:

      And Reagan did it earlier, and before him, Abraham Lincoln!

  33. JuanValdez says:

    Ever notice the number of unheard of diseases that accompany illegal immigrants?

    1. John Potts says:

      You are correct. The CDC has done extensive studies on human miagration and the spread of disease. Also the bringing in of “exotic” species is another way for non-native diseases to take hold.

    2. Hy21brid says:

      You mean like the common cold we brought over that wiped out tribes of Indians? At the time, the common cold was unheard of to the Indians. We are now a mobile society. It’s an accepted fact and has nothing to do with the term “illegal”. People travel, whether they are permanently migrating or visiting far away places for vacation.

      1. Spanky says:

        “It’s an accepted fact and has nothing to do with the term “illegal”.”

        Do you agree or disagree that illegal immigrants are more likely to have lived in less sanitary conditions than legal immigrants?

  34. task says:

    You are better off having rabies. The likelihood of survival with amoebic encephalopathy is not good. They got this early and newer drugs would work if they can get them directly to the brain and that is difficult because of the blood brain barrier.

  35. Dennis D says:

    Bush must have something to do with this.

  36. Fred 3 says:

    Unfortunately, she just died. Don’t go swimming in Florida fresh water in the summer !

  37. Victor says:

    Pet owners should also be aware of a disease called “pythium” that seems to be contracted through stagnant water sources which have been contaminated by raccoons, other wildlife. No cure for it as yet. Lots of cases in the gulf coast areas (lowlands), after storms, affecting lots of dogs.

  38. Grandpa Rick says:

    sadly, we have friends who lost a 10 year old daughter to the same amoeba. She died within a week after swimming in a lake in Texas. Warm water harbors the amoeba which enters through the nose typically and is almost always fatal.

    1. Christy says:

      Your’s is the inetllginet approach to this issue.

  39. T & A fan says:

    She already kicked off. Update your story. Where’d your editor gets its degree? Havana U.?

  40. Diana K says:

    Wear http://www.sinussaver.com
    They could possibly save your life

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  42. uluv.us says:

    Eating more not-breaded /not-fried fish (like salmon) is really useful to spice up the brain energy
    of youngsters – in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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