Officials at Lake Mead are warning visitors not to submerge their heads in the water of a popular hot spring near the Hoover Dam because they fear it is contaminated with a brain-eating amoeba.
The deadly organism Naegleria fowleri was found in the hot springs when conditions were right, Lake Mead National Recreation Area officials warned.
“Naegleria fowleri has been found in hot springs,” said a statement released this week.
“This amoeba enters through the nose and can cause a fatal infection, causing sudden and severe headaches, fever and vomiting.” It is recommended not to dive, splash water or immerse your head in hot spring water.
The death of two-year-old Woodrow Turner Bundy in July was attributed to a brain-eating amoeba so deadly that only four people in the United States have ever caught it and lived to tell the tale.
Visitors to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead hot springs have been told not to submerge their heads in the nearby hot springs because of a possible brain-eating amoeba
N. fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba that causes sudden, severe symptoms and often leads to brain damage and death
Bundy’s family told media at the time that he had contracted the amoeba several weeks earlier while swimming at Ash Springs, near the town of Alamo, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas.
His parents first noticed something was wrong when the boy suffered from “flu-like symptoms” and he was taken to the hospital, where doctors initially thought he had meningitis but then discovered too late that he actually had Naegleria fowleri .
This amoeba can live in warm freshwater environments such as hot springs and cause a disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
PAM generally results in severe brain damage. In fact, the infection is usually fatal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amoeba has a mortality rate of 97 percent.
Millions of people are exposed to the amoeba every year, but infection with N. fowleri is rare.
The CDC reported fewer than five cases of infection per year for each year from 2013 to 2022.
Statistically, most brain-eating amoeba infections occur in boys ages 14 and younger. CDC experts aren’t sure why that is.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amoeba has a mortality rate of 97 percent
Statistically, most brain-eating amoeba infections occur in boys ages 14 and younger. CDC experts aren’t sure why that is
The single-celled organism is found in its highest concentration in fresh water that is 75 degrees or more and maintains that temperature for extended periods of time.
Lake Mead Park often closes some trails leading to hot springs when summer temperatures become extremely hot. These trails typically reopen on October 1st.
However, some of the springs are still accessible via the Colorado River, on which the Hoover Dam is being built.
Kali Hardig, now 22, from Arkansas, was only 12 years old when she was struck by Naegleria fowleri, which doctors say she caught at a water park.
They told her it was a “death sentence” and gave her just four days to live, but a decade later she is swimming again and became a mother for the first time last November. She only occasionally struggles with blurred vision in her left eye due to scar tissue caused by the disease.
Woodrow Bundy died in July of this year after becoming infected with a brain-eating amoeba
Kali Hardig, 22, survived her infection with the brain-eating amoeba a decade ago. She became a mother last November and her daughter Adalynn (pictured with Kali) is now 10 months old. She also still has occasional blurred vision in her left eye
14-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer was infected with the amoeba about a year ago while swimming in an estuary. He can now stand, walk and speak somewhat, although he still requires a wheelchair
Fourteen-year-old Caleb Ziegelbauer from Florida has also been infected for a year with the microscopic species, which kills 97 percent of its victims.
Caleb can now walk somewhat, but due to damage to his brain he has to communicate with facial expressions and uses a wheelchair.
According to official records, 157 people in the United States were infected with the disease between 1962 and 2022, of whom only four survived.
Five deaths from the amoeba have been reported this year, most recently a 1-year-old toddler from Arkansas who died on September 4th.
There are fears that rising temperatures are heating freshwater basins across the country, putting more people at risk of the amoeba.