Are Deadly Amoeba Infections Unpreventable?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is little anyone can do to prevent or stop the spread of a deadly amoeba Naegleria. However, it is possible that we could all have done something to prevent the spread of this disease, which has increased essentially fourfold this year.

Although there were only six fatal cases reported this summer, that number represents four times the average number of cases seen nationwide since 1989. What might be behind the increase?

Microbiologists note that Naegleria are commonly found in warm, fresh water, and advise that swimmers avoid “thermally polluted” lakes and streams. However, as global warming increases the mean world temperature, all bodies of water have become “thermally polluted,” meaning that we have likely not seen the last increase in Naegleria infections.

Illustrative is the case of Cryptosporidiosis, a disease that was under detailed surveillance by the CDC from 2003-2005. This disease is caused by protozoa of the genus Cryptosporidium, that, like Naegleria, is found in warm, fresh water. In particular, infection is expected to spread to people using fountains and other tepid water environments as recreational water features. During the period, cases of infection rose by over 11% each year. The cause? The exact cause is unknown, but it really can be attributed to only a couple factors, both of which increase under the influence of global warming: an increase of Cryptosporidium in the water or an increase of people seeking the refuge of water on hot summer days.

It remains to be seen whether Naegleria infections will continue their increase as global warming continues, but any increase represents a serious health risk to the population, not primarily because of its anticipated fatality rate, but because of the possible fear resulting from such fatalities.

Naegleria infection has a high potential fear factor. The origin of the disease is innocuous, and targets an innocent activity most consider a cherished part of childhood: a plunge in the local swimming hole. Then the disease progresses quickly, moving from flu-like symptoms to death in as little as four days. Although treatments purportedly exist, the progress of the disease is too quick in most cases to allow application of the treatment, making their effectiveness nominal at best.

Although it is probably impossible that we as a population can seek damages for the massive exchange made by industries and governments reluctant to sacrifice profits for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, we should consider any increased fatalities due to global warming wrongful deaths, deaths that did not have to happen. If you have lost someone close to you as a result of people trading your risk for their profit, contact today to get in touch with a lawyer capable of punishing those responsible.