Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis

If like me you get some of your news from the Internet you may have seen the story of 9-year-old Jack Ariola Erenberg who died from an infection caused by a microscopic amoeba, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis after swimming in the warm waters of Lily Lake near his home in Stillwater, Minnesota.

As the summer wains and the last of vacations are occurring the idea that you could lose your life because you went for a swim to cool off is frightening.  It is important to know that the risk, while real, is very small. According to the CDC:

“In the 10 years from 2002 to 2011, 32 infections were reported in the U.S. Of those cases, 28 people were infected by contaminated recreational water, two people were infected by water from a contaminated, geothermal (naturally hot), untreated drinking water supply, and two people were infected after performing nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water.”

There are steps that you can take to decrease the chance of infection.

For those who wish to take a dip in a lake to cool off –

  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater.
  • Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

“Even more rarely, infections have been reported when people submerge their heads, cleanse during religious practices, or irrigate their sinuses (nose) with contaminated tap water. If you are making a solution for irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses (for example, by using a neti pot, sinus rinse bottle or other irrigation device), use water that has been:

  • previously boiled for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes) and left to cool



  • purchased with a label specifying that it contains distilled or sterile water

Rinse the irrigation device after each use with water that has been previously boiled, filtered, distilled, or sterilized and leave the device open to air dry completely.”

For more detailed information visit the CDC.

posted by – Susan, Health Reference Services

This entry was posted in CDC, In the news, Jack Ariola Erenberg, Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, Swimming. Bookmark the permalink.

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