Hernando Health Dept. warns of deadly amoeba - WFLA News Channel 8

Hernando Health Dept. warns of deadly amoeba

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WEEKI WACHEE, FL (WFLA) -

On a hot summer's day, many people head to the water to cool off. 

Thursday, the Hernando County Health Department was warning residents that swimming in some bodies of water could contain dangerous amoeba known as "naegleria fowleri."

Al Gray, the environmental manager at the Hernando County Health Department says, "This amoeba only comes out of the cyst form when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit."

Gray says the single cell organism lives in the sediment on the bottom of lakes, ponds and streams.

Hunters Lake in Spring Hill is an ideal environment for the amoeba to survive.

According to Gray, "Any warm mud bottom lake has the potential to have this amoeba."

When stirred up by swimmers, the amoeba becomes active.  Although rare, Grays says it can be very dangerous when it enters the nose of swimmers and passes through nerve tissue in the nasal cavity and then into the brain.

Symptoms of an infection from amoeba may include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures.

The health department says to seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.

Gray says once the infection takes place in the brain, it is more than 99% fatal.

There are some bodies of water in Hernando that are protected from this amoeba.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Rogers Park are both spring fed. Gray says the cool water temperature from the springs prevents the deadly amoeba from living there. 

Nancy Bowden of Ridge Manor brought her six kids to Rogers Park on Thursday.  She said knowing that the amoeba cannot survive in this water is a relief.

Bowden says, "I'm glad that we know about it now. You know we will actually be cautious."

To protect yourself, the Florida Department of Heath recommends taking the following steps:

*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.

*Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.

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

*Please note exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses of cold/allergy-related congestion with unfiltered tap water.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises you to clean these devices thoroughly after every use and filter the water before placing it in the pot. 

 

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