ORLANDO, FLA. -- Health Department around the state, but especially in the central and southern parts of Florida, are reminding families to be safe when enjoying fresh water activities as schools begin to let out and summer breaks begin.
Everyone should take precautions while swimming in warm freshwater lakes and ponds due to the threat posed by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.
Naegleria fowleri is a naturally occurring amoeba that can be found in any body of fresh water such as lakes, rivers, hot springs and poorly maintained and minimally-chlorinated or un-chlorinated swimming pools.
This amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis by traveling up the nose to the brain and spinal cord. This generally happens during activities such as swimming, diving, water-skiing, or wakeboarding.
Infection with Naegleria is most common during the summer months of July, August, and September.
Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods, causing higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
Some measures that might reduce your risk of infection include avoiding water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater and keeping your head out of the water, holding your nose shut or using nose clips when swimming in freshwater areas.
Also, avoiding digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.
Although infections are rare, most prove to be fatal.
Seek medical care immediately if you develop a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, and vomiting especially if you have been in warm fresh water within the previous 2 weeks.