Brain-eating amoebas could become more common due to climate change, officials say – KOLD
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Just one month after a swimmer died from a brain-eating amoeba, investigators in Nebraska are looking into another potential case involving a child. An expert with the University of Arizona said these cases could become more frequent as global warming paces forward.
Charles Gerba, a microbiology professor at the University of Arizona, has been studying brain-eating amoebas for years. With recent reports in Iowa and Nebraska, he’s worried the cases will become more frequent.
“Over half of the cases occur in Texas and Florida during the summer,” Gerba said. “And, we get them during the summer too, largely from the surface waters.”
Arizona has only seen eight cases, including when 14-year-old Aaron Evans died after swimming at Lake Havasu in 2015. Gerba said as temperatures increase in Arizona it will make for the perfect habitat for Naegleria fowleri.
He said the “big concern” is when global warming makes bodies of water slowly become warmer and that “exposure may increase throughout the season.”
He added these organisms thrive in warm bodies of water and he is worried more cases will start to pop up throughout upcoming summers.
“The water is heating up in Arizona and other states. It will have increased exposure to Naegleria and in increased concentrations to Naegleria in the water.”
While it is rare, taking extra precautions before heading out for a day on the lake or to the river can be potentially life-saving.
Gerba said to avoid submerging in the water. This means getting water in your nose and ears. He added that if you (especially kids) plan to go swimming, kids especially should use nose clips.
If you really want to be cautious, Gerba said to swim in a properly chlorinated backyard pool. He emphasized making sure the pool’s chlorination levels are up to standards as the amoeba doesn’t react well to chlorine.
Gerba also said almost all of the cases in the United States are people under 21 years old, and Naegleria fowleri tends to be diagnosed in young adults and kids.
Copyright 2022 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.