Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's eating me away, it nibbles at my brain

BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA KILLS ARIZONA BOY
PHOENIX -- A 14-year-old Lake Havasu boy has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain.
Aaron Evans died Sept. 17 of Naegleria fowleri, an organism doctors said he probably picked up a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu.
The heat-loving amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. People become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose -- say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff -- the amoeba can latch onto the person's olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.
Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, Naegleria infected 23 people from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials said they've noticed a spike in cases, with six Naegleria-related cases so far -- all of them fatal.
Well, not all have been fatal. A photo has surfaced of one person who was a victim of the brain-eating amoeba and somehow survived:

[graphic by Dancin' Dave]