Warning to South Floridians: Deadly Amoeba Risk in Poorly Maintained Swimming Pools...

by Admin
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

I came across this story today and thought it needed to be highlighted. It seems almost every other house in Florida has a pool, but not everyone keeps theirs clean. This can be dangerous for the homeowners, their children, and also my swimming instructors, so check out this article from OrlandoSentinel.com, and clean your pools!

Health officials: Avoid swimming in lakes because of deadly amoeba

By Linda Shrieves, Orlando Sentinel

4:47 PM EDT, June 15, 2011

Health officials throughout Central Florida are urging residents and tourists to avoid swimming in freshwater lakes and ponds because summer's heat and the area's drought have made conditions ideal for a deadly amoeba that lives in fresh water.

Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba most commonly found in the upper layer of sediment in the bottom of lakes and ponds with mud floors. The threat of infection, although rare, increases during the summer months when the water temperature exceeds 80 degrees F.

And this summer, Florida has already experienced a heat wave and a drought ? weather conditions similar to those seen in 2007, the year three area boys died from exposure to the amoebas.

"We've got the same kind of scenario now that we had then ? it's hot, we're experiencing drought conditions and the lake levels are down," said Dain Weister, spokesman for the Orange County Health Department. "That's why we're warning people to be careful."

The amoeba isn't limited to lakes and ponds. It has been found in drainage ditches, hot springs, warm water that surrounds power plants ? and in
poorly maintained swimming pools, which have low levels of chlorine.

The amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) by traveling up the nose to the brain and spinal cord. This generally happens during activities such as swimming, diving, waterskiing or wakeboarding.

"The infection occurs when the amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain and spinal cord while the person is swimming underwater or diving," said Dr. Bonnie J. Sorensen, director of the Volusia County Health Department.

Symptoms of infection include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance and bodily control, seizures and hallucinations.

This infection cannot be spread from person to person or contracted from a properly maintained swimming pool.

Follow these precautions to decrease the possibility of infection:

?Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally polluted water such as water around power plants.

?Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels (such as drought, which lowers water levels).

?Keep your head out of the water, hold your nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities.

?Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

Officials remind residents and tourists that the safest way to prevent infection from an amoeba is to not swim in warm, standing water or in places where "no swimming" signs are posted.

lshrieves@tribune.com or 407-420-5433

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

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