One simple trick will beat brain-eating amoeba

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MISSOURI (CBS 58) -- A trip to the beach turned life-threatening this month, as a Missouri woman was infected with the so-called "brain-eating" amoeba after swimming at a beach in Iowa.

The beach at Lake of Three Fires State Park in Taylor County is now closed after a "confirmed infection of Naegleria fowleri," the Iowa Department of Public Health announced Friday. 

Dr. Dan Shirley, medical director of infection prevention at UW-Health, says the Naegleria fowleri amoeba thrives in warm water, you aren't likely to contract it in Lake Michigan.  "Usually late in the summer, in smaller bodies of water like ponds and small lakes where the water temperature can get warmer than usual," he said.

The amoeba causes an infection called Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that destroys brain tissue. And while PAM is extremely rare, it is also extremely deadly. The CDC says only five people in the U.S. are known to have survived it. 

The CDC says you can't catch the amoeba from drinking water, and the amoeba will not survive in a properly chlorinated swimming pool. It has to enter your brain through your nose.

"The circumstances have to be exactly right for someone to get this," Dr. Shirley said.

So to guard against this very rare, very deadly amoeba, Dr. Shirley says to wear nose plugs or watch how you swim.

"Try not to dive in and let water shoot up your nose," he said.

According to the WI Department of Health, no cases of brain-eating amoeba have been documented in Wisconsin.

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