TAMPA (CBS Tampa) — Florida’s Department of Health is warning people about a brain-eating amoeba that could be lurking in fresh water bodies.

In a recent press release, the state’s Health Department raises the issue of Floridians contracting a parasite known as Naegleria fowler, which is found in warm, stagnant water.

This type of parasite enters the human body through the person’s nose and makes its way to the brain. The rare infection causes a life-threatening disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. The disease can start anywhere between one to 14 days after contact, with symptoms including headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. The infection causes a person’s brain to swell, leading to seizures and hallucinations.

“So as you see the temperatures in lakes and rivers rising, we want to be very careful not to be in the shallows stirring up the muck where this amoeba can be found,” Steve Huard, public information officer for the Hillsborough County Health Department, told WFTS-TV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that the Naegleria fowleri parasite grows best at temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Health officials recommend people to wear nose clips, to hold their noses shut or just keep their head out of the water while swimming in any fresh water body.

There is a 99 percent fatality rate after contracting the disease, but contracting the disease is very rare as there were only 31 reported infections in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012.


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