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The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in conjunction with the CDC, have confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri in Lake of Three Fires located in Taylor county.

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that commonly occurs in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals. In extremely rare cases, it can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain infection that may result when water containing the amoeba rushes up the nose and reaches the brain.

Earlier this month, a Missouri resident contracted PAM after swimming in the Lake of Three Fires and subsequently died due to the infection.

Across the United States, a total of 31 cases occurred from 2012 to 2021. The low number of infections makes it difficult to know why so few people have been infected compared to the millions of others who used the same or similar waters across the U.S. during the same time period.

With testing now complete, DNR will reopen the beach at Lake of Three Fires on Thursday, July 28, 2022, with signage informing swimmers of the presence of Naegleria fowleri and risk of PAM.

Further testing of additional recreational waters is not planned at this time. There is no rapid, standardized test to detect Naegleria fowleri in water, which is why HHS and DNR recommend that Iowans assume the parasite is present and limit the amount of water that goes up your nose to help reduce your risk of infection. Swimmers are encouraged to be informed and take precautions.

What Iowans should know:

  • Naegleria fowleri is one of many naturally occurring organisms found in freshwater and is more common in southern states. It usually occurs when temperatures increase for prolonged periods of time, resulting in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Use caution when engaging in water-related activities in warm freshwater during these times.
  • Behaviors associated with the infection include diving or jumping into the water, submerging the head under water, or engaging in other water-related activities that cause water to go up the nose forcefully.
  • Swimmers can reduce their risk by keeping their heads out of the water and using nose clips or plugging their noses when going underwater. Swimmers should also avoid digging or stirring up the sediment at the bottom of the lake or river.
  • People can't get infected by swimming in a pool that has been properly cleaned and is maintained and disinfected. They also can't get it from drinking contaminated water.
  • Please note exposure to the amoeba may also occur when using neti pots to rinse your sinuses or conducting religious rituals with tap water. Use only boiled and cooled, distilled, or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.

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