Georgia resident dies from rare brain-eating amoeba, “likely infected while swimming” in a lake or pond


A Georgia resident has died from a rare brain infection, commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” state health officials have confirmed.

The unidentified victim was infected with Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that destroys brain tissue, causes brain swelling and usually death, the Georgia Department of Health said in a news release Friday.

This is the sixth case of the infection in Georgia since 1962.

Officials said the victim was “likely infected while swimming in a freshwater lake or pond” but did not say where. People can become infected when water containing the amoeba goes up a person’s nose. It cannot infect people if swallowed and is not spread from person to person.

“The amoeba is naturally occurring, and there is no routine environmental test for Naegleria fowleri in bodies of water; and because it is very common in the environment, levels of the amoebas that naturally occur cannot be controlled,” health officials said. “The location and number of amoebas in the water can vary over time within the same body of water.”

Officials did not release any additional information about the victim.

Symptoms of an infection include severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and progress to a stiff neck, seizures and coma that can lead to death. Symptoms start about five days after infection but can start anywhere from 1 to 12 days after infection. Symptoms progress rapidly and can cause death within five days.

People who choose to swim can reduce their risk of infection by limiting the amount of water that goes up their nose. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not jumping or diving into bodies of fresh water, as well as holding your nose shut and keeping your head above water.

Naegleria fowleri is most often found in water above 80 degrees Farenheit, the CDC said. 

The incident marked at least the second confirmed death from Naegleria fowleri in a little over a month. In June, a child died from a brain-eating amoeba after a visit to a Nevada hot spring, state officials said. Investigators believe the child contracted the infection at Ash Springs, which is located about 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Health reported a case of Naegleria fowleri, saying the person was infected “possibly as a result of sinus rinse practices utilizing tap water.” 

The CDC says between 1962 and 2022, 157 cases of Naegleria fowleri were reported in the U.S. Of those cases, only two people were infected after rinsing sinuses using contaminated tap water. 

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