The Arkansas Department of Health recently confirmed a case of a rare form of parasitic meningitis in a 12-year-old Kali Hardig from Arkansas.
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is extremely rare, but typically fatal infection, entering the body through the nose and consumes brain tissue, according to a news release.
The ameba, also known as Naegleria fowleri, can be found in warm rivers, lakes and streams, but the source of Hardig's infection is Willow Springs Water Park.
Though the risk of infection is exceedingly low, many still have questions about the parasite. In order to answer the questions, National Geographic interviewed Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who collects and analyzes data on the microscopic amoeba.
According to National Geographic, the parasitic infection can lead to symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, and vomiting, which will become more serious as the infection progresses. The infection may lead to a coma and death after about five days.
"There have been no evident cases of contamination in the United States in well-maintained, properly treated swimming pools," according to the CDC. "Filtration and chlorination or other types of disinfectant should reduce or eliminate the risk."
The CDC also has no data confirming infection from Naegleria fowleri is becoming more common, with about 5 cases reported in a year.
"What has changed recently is that cases have appeared in places we had never seen before-like Minnesota, Indiana, and Kansas," the CDC told National Geographic. "This is evidence that the amoeba is moving farther north. In the past it was always found in warmer weather states."
Unfortunately, the survival rate of from the infection is not every high. Since the 1960s, there have been 128 cases of Naegleria fowleri only one survivor, not including the current case.
In 1978, the patient survived on antibiotics, but the same treatment has meant the death of others.
National Geographic also asked the CDC how to keep yourself safe from the infection:
If people want to reduce their risk of becoming infected-even though this is a rare event- the thing to think about is holding their nose shut or wearing nose clips when swimming in warm, untreated freshwater. Keep your head above water in hot springs or other thermally heated bodies of water, and during activities where water is forced up the nose, like water sports and diving.
Another way to reduce the risk of infection is to avoid stirring up the sediment in lakes and ponds, where the amoeba may live.
This is a tragic event for someone who becomes infected, as well as their family. We feel it is important for us to be involved even though it does not affect lots of people each year.