Health officials have confirmed the presence of a rare, deadly, brain-eating amoeba in Florida’s Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa and several other cities.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health announced that a person in the county had been infected with naegleria fowleri, a single-celled living amoeba that can cause a serious brain infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, the Daily Beast reports.
This particular infection “destroys the brain tissue and is usually fatal,” according to health officials. The amoeba lives in lakes, rivers, and ponds, and flourishes in warm weather. Health officials say the way to thwart an infection is by “avoiding nasal contact with the waters, since the amoeba enters through the nasal passages.” There have been only 37 cases of the amoeba in Florida since 1962, with only four people out of 143 total cases in the U.S. having survived the brain infection.
The same amoeba was discovered in the water supply of a Louisiana parish in 2013. That summer, it killed a 4-year-old boy and was connected to the death of another boy in Florida. While the fatality rate is 99 percent, CNN reports 12-year-old Kali Hardig of Arkansas survived after taking an experimental drug. According to the CDC, symptoms of infection include vomiting, nausea, fever, and headache.