Storms can cause flooding. Skin contact with flood waters alone does not pose a serious health risk. However, health hazards are a concern when waters are contaminated with bacteria and viruses.
The Florida Department of Health recommends the following precautions to help prevent illness from flood waters:
Flood waters can also contain a rare but deadly threat known as Naegleria fowleri.
In 2013, a Hendry County child died following a Naegleria fowleri infection he apparently contracted while playing in a flooded ditch.
According to DOH, Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba. The amoeba can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) that destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal. The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.
Infections can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM.
Infections usually occur when temperatures increase for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. The peak season for this amoeba is July, August and September.
Naegleria fowleri is found in many warm freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers in the United States, but is more common in southern states. The low number of infections makes it difficult to know why a few people have been infected compared to the millions of other people that used the same or similar waters across the U.S.
If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in any warm body of water, contact your health care provider immediately: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations. It is essential to seek medical attention right away, as the disease progresses rapidly after the start of symptoms.
Remember, this disease is rare and effective prevention strategies can allow for a safe and relaxing summer swim season.
For the latest information about the amoeba please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html.