June 14, 2009

Health officials warn of deadly amoeba

Swimming in Florida lakes and rivers can be deadly if the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is present, public health officials warn.

While no deaths were reported last year in Central Florida, three boys died of the infection in 2007, the Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday.

The amoeba can be found in swimming pools, especially if they are not chlorinated. But it is most common in lakes, ponds and rivers, especially when the weather gets warm enough to lift the water temperature to 80 degrees, officials say.

Testing for it is almost impossible.

Trying to test for amoebas is like throwing a pea into a lake and testing for its presence, said Denise Ward of the Seminole County Health Department. If the pea isn't in that particular water sample, we're not going to know it's in the lake.

Dain Weister of the Orange County department suggests swimmers stay out of bodies of freshwater during hot weather or, if they do go in, keep heads above water and avoid diving, water skiing and other activities that might force water up the nose.