A water park in Arkansas closed after the Department of Health determined it was the likely source of a rare infection by a deadly amoeba.
A person contracted primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) after visiting Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Arkansas. PAM is caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba which prefers warm fresh waters. The infection is very rare; only thirty-one cases have occurred in the U.S. in the last decade, all of them fatal.
The amoeba enters the body through the nose while a person is swimming. If it travels to the brain, the infection will nearly always kill a person. While living in warm fresh water bodies, Naegleria fowleri eats bacteria. Once inside a human, the deadly amoeba feeds on red and white blood cells and destroys tissue, especially in the nervous system.
The Arkansas Department of Health has not said whether the most recent victim is still alive. Some treatments exist, but because the infection is difficult to diagnose, the fatality rate remains at 98%.
Image of Naegleria fowleri, courtesy CDC