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Nebraska DHHS Reports First Suspected Death from Naegleria fowleri Infection

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Lincoln, Neb. –A Nebraska resident is suspected to have died from infection with Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as a brain-eating amoeba. The resident most likely acquired the infection while swimming in the Elkhorn River, shortly before illness. If confirmed, it is the first known death from Naegleria fowleri in Nebraska’s history.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that is commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds throughout the United States. It can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that may result when water containing the amoeba rushes up the nose and reaches the brain. The infection is extremely rare, but nearly always fatal.

“Millions of recreational water exposures occur each year, while only 0 to 8 Naegleria fowleri infections are identified each year. Infections typically occur later in the summer, in warmer water with slower flow, in July, August, and September. Cases are more frequently identified in southern states but more recently have been identified farther north. Limiting the opportunities for freshwater to get into the nose are the best ways to reduce the risk of infection,” said State Epidemiologist, Dr. Matthew Donahue.

In general, the CDC does not recommend testing untreated rivers and lakes for Naegleria fowleri because the ameba is naturally occurring and there is no established relationship between detection or concentration of Naegleria fowleri and risk of infection.

Other information and preventative measures:

  • Naegleria fowleri usually occurs when temperatures increase for prolonged periods, resulting in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Use caution when engaging in water-related activities in warm freshwater during these times.
  • Behaviors associated with the infection include diving or jumping into the water, submerging the head underwater, or engaging in other water-related activities that cause water to go up the nose forcefully.
  • Swimmers can reduce their risk by keeping their heads out of the water and using nose clips or plugging their noses when going underwater. Swimmers should also avoid digging or stirring up the sediment at the bottom of the lake or river.
  • People can’t get infected by swimming in a pool that has been properly cleaned and is maintained and disinfected. They also can’t get it from drinking contaminated water.
  • Avoid submersing your head in hot springs and other untreated thermal water.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

For more information regarding naegleria fowleri, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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