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Brain-Eating Amoeba

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How Long Until Symptoms of a Brain-Eating Amoeba Appear?

It takes two to 15 days for symptoms to appear after N. fowleri amoebas enter the nose. Death usually occurs three to seven days after symptoms appear. The average time to death is 5.3 days from symptom onset. Only a handful of patients worldwide have been reported to have survived an infection.

What Are the First Symptoms Someone Might Have?

Symptoms of PAM are not specific to this disease. At first, PAM may seem like viral meningitis. Symptoms include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • altered mental state
  • seizures
  • coma

There may also be hallucinations, drooping eyelid, blurred vision, and loss of the sense of taste.

Is There a Treatment for Infection With Brain-Eating Amoeba?

The right treatment isn't clear. A number of drugs kill N. fowleri amoebas in the test tube. But even when treated with these drugs, very few patients survive.

Is There a Rapid Test for Infection With Brain-Eating Amoeba?

There is no rapid test for infection with brain-eating amoeba. But researchers are working to develop one. Until such tests come along, it can take weeks to identify the amoeba.

How Do Amoebas Dissolve Brain Tissue?

One study suggests that N. fowleri amoebas produce two proteases -- enzymes that dissolve protein.

 

Are Certain Groups Affected More Than Others?

Over 60% of U.S. cases are in children age 13 or younger. About 80% of cases are in males.

It's not at all clear whether children or males are more susceptible to the amoeba, or whether young males are more likely to engage in activities that expose them to the amoeba.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Brain-Eating Amoeba?

It makes sense to avoid swimming underwater, diving, water skiing, and jumping in warm, still waters during the late summer. It also makes sense to wear a nose clip when swimming, boating, or playing in or on warm waters.

It's also a good idea to avoid stirring up mud while taking part in such activities.

And if you are cleansing your nostrils, be sure to fill your neti pot or squeeze bottle with distilled or sterile water -- not tap water. You can also use water that has been boiled for one minute (three minutes at high elevations) and then cooled. And you can filter the water using filters with pores no larger than 1 micron (1 micrometer).

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 01, 2014
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