The headlines are terrifying, and the story details are even worse as you read about a child who goes for a swim in a lake or river and then falls prey to a “brain-eating amoeba.”
The brain infection brought on by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that flourishes in warm open waters, can quickly prove fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As disturbing as these reports are, parents don’t need to bar their kids from the local swimming spot due to fear of Naegleria, infectious disease experts say.
These cases make headlines because they are so unexpected and devastating, but the infection itself is “very, very uncommon,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate with the University of Pittsburgh’s UPMC Center For Health Security.
“You have to think about how many times people have exposure to water that has Naegleria in it, and how few cases we actually see every year,” said Adalja, who’s also a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“Each case grabs the headlines because it is so rare but so severe. I don’t think you should restrict a child’s activities because of this,” he said.