Health officials in Florida have sounded the alarm over the discovery of a rare, brain-eating amoeba in the county that encompasses Tampa and several other cities. The Florida Department of Health announced the news Friday that a person in Hillsborough County had suffered a confirmed infection of naegleria fowleri, a single-celled living amoeba that can lead to a dangerous infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. Such an infection “destroys the brain tissue and is usually fatal,” health officials warned.
The amoeba is usually found in lakes, rivers, and ponds, particularly when the water is warm. There have only been 37 confirmed cases of the amoeba since 1962, and health officials say the best way to prevent an infection is by “avoiding nasal contact with the waters, since the amoeba enters through the nasal passages.” Of the 143 documented cases of brain infection caused by naegleria fowleri in the U.S., only four people have survived.