Naegleria fowleri - Causes

If you, a friend, or relative had a Naegleria fowleri infection, what was the cause?

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What causes a Naegleria fowleri infection?

N. fowleri is a water-borne disease. Exposure occurs when people come into contact with warm, fresh water usually through swimming, diving, water skiing, or other recreational activity. Although contact with infected water is common, symptomatic disease caused by N. fowleri is rare. It is common for people in the southern U.S. to have antibodies showing evidence of past exposure even when they have no history of symptoms or disease.

The danger of serious infection comes when water containing Naegleria fowleri is forced in into the nose and nasal mucosa. The parasite then migrates through the olfactory nerves and enters the brain. The initial step of infection can occur when diving or inadvertently aspirating water during swimming. Rarely, under-chlorinated swimming pools have been implicated in transmission. Because Naegleria fowleri can be present in untreated well water, there is a small but real chance of transmission to young children during bathing. Naegleria fowleri has also caused disease in adults who inject water into the nose as part of ritual ablutions related to religious practices.

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