Risk of meningitis in the swimming pool: woman died after bathing

Risk of meningitis in the swimming pool: woman died after bathing

Enigmatic patient: deadly danger in the pool
After a young woman was brought to a clinic in the United States with symptoms such as headache, dizziness and nausea, her condition deteriorated rapidly. The doctors diagnosed meningitis. The patient died shortly thereafter. Authorities later found that her death was related to bathing in a private swimming pool.

Young woman dies shortly after hospitalization
In the United States, a 21-year-old woman died of a rare disease caused by the "brain-eating" parasite Naegleria fowleri. A spokesman for the regional health agency in Inyo County, California told CBS News: “At first, the young woman felt nausea and dizziness. This was followed by a severe headache ”. Since the pain didn't stop, the patient finally went to the Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, California.

There the doctors diagnosed meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges, based on the typical symptoms. At this point in time, the doctors were not yet aware of whether viruses or bacteria had caused the disease. Despite the fact that treatment was started immediately and should help regardless of the pathogen, the condition of the woman continued to deteriorate. Two days later, the patient was transferred to another hospital in Reno, Nevada. But she couldn't be helped there either. The young woman died a little later.

Brain-eating parasite responsible for death
"We couldn't explain death," said one of the senior doctors. "For this reason, a thorough investigation was ordered." When the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed women's CSF and blood samples, the results showed that a brain-eating parasite resulted in the death of the young woman. The single-celled Naegleria fowleri, better known as "brain-eating amoeba", lives in warm fresh water and is described in medical textbooks as a pathogen that causes the so-called primary amoeba meningoencephalitis. The route of infection in the current case initially remained unclear.

Swimming in the pool was doomed to woman
According to a team of scientists led by Jennifer Cope from the CDC after completing the investigations in the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” of the disease protection authority, infections with the unicellular organism are almost always fatal. According to the news magazine "Spiegel", the experts found that in the two weeks before her death, the woman only had to swim once in a private pool, the water of which had been mixed with chlorine just before swimming. The report says the pool is in a desert area and the water that comes from a mountain spring has covered the last 2.4 kilometers in a landline that was built in the 1960s. According to the information, the top of the pipe was rusted in many places, so that it was basically a gutter. According to the “Spiegel”, the water at the spring was around ten degrees Celsius on the day of July when the water samples were taken, while at the inlet to the swimming pool it was around 37 degrees. The woman had died in June.

Infections are extremely rare
Although the CDC had not found any signs of Naegleria fowleri in the water of the swimming pool or on the line, it nevertheless assumes that the woman there has been infected with the amoeba. According to the agency, the case underlines the importance of hygiene when operating a swimming pool. If this is properly maintained and disinfected, there is basically no risk of infection. Naegleria fowleri occurs in almost all parts of the world, with the United States and Australia being the focus of distribution, according to the CDC. However, experts assume that many cases in developing and emerging countries are not recognized as such and are therefore not reported. However, infections are generally very rare.

“In the 10 years from 2005 to 2014, 35 infections were reported in the United States, with 31 people being infected by swimming in contaminated recreational waters, three people having a nasal irrigation with contaminated tap water, and one being contaminated from tap water on one Back yard, ”said the experts. According to the health agency, a total of 133 people have contracted the parasite in the United States in the past 53 years. However, the death rate was very high. So far, only three people have been saved from death as a result of the infection. No cases have been reported in Germany so far.

Pathogens spread at temperatures above 30 degrees
According to the CDC, infection with Naegleria fowleri usually occurs when someone takes in contaminated water through their noses when bathing or diving. In this way, the amoeba can migrate into the brain and trigger the life-threatening inflammation. According to the CDC, one cannot become infected by swallowing or drinking unintentionally.

According to information from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the amoeba reproduce above all at temperatures between 30 and 45 degrees Celsius. The pathogen is therefore particularly common in freshwater and subtropical and tropical soils, but also in naturally or artificially heated freshwater in temperate climates. In 2014, researchers reported in the journal "PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases" about a study according to which over 95 percent of known infections with Naegleria fowleri end in death. (ad)

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