MGN Online

Published: Aug 12, 2013 3:32 PM EDT

GLADES COUNTY, Fla. – A confirmed case of Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba," has been reported in Glades County, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Naegleria fowleri can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). 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 (which destroys brain tissue) and is usually fatal.

The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.  The peak season for this amoeba is July, August and September. Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 28 infections were reported in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012. The infections occurred from exposure to contaminated recreational water. You cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water and the amoeba is not found in salt water.

Initial symptoms of PAM usually start within one to seven days after infection. The initial symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Other symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly.

The only way to prevent a Naegleria fowleri infection is not to participate in freshwater-related activities.

Reduce your risk by:

-Limiting the amount of water going up your nose. Hold your nose shut, use nose clips, or keep your head above water when taking part in warm freshwater-related activities.

-Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.

-Avoid digging in, or stirring up, the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

For more information about Naegleria fowleri, you can visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/