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Waco warns residents of Brazos River water amoeba as temperatures heat up

Many Waconians and tourists who will be in the water this Summer should be aware of the infections that are at risk.

WACO, Texas — Summer is here which also means deadly uncommon water amoeba will also be making its arrival in Central Texas. The Brazos River Authority (BRA) warns residents to take extra precautions over the Summer. 

A brain-eating amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri, thrives in freshwater warmer than 80 degrees, this amoeba can be found in populated residential lakes and rivers, according to the BRA.

Many Waconians and tourists who will be in the water this Summer should be aware of the infections that are at risk. The BRA mentions Primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, which is a rare brain infection caused when water containing the amoeba is forced into the nasal passages. 

Two parents in Waco just a couple years ago lost their daughter to PAM, and are doing their part to spread awareness.

Laci Avant and John Crawson grew up swimming in the Brazos River all the time and never once imagined they would be impacted by this dangerous amoeba.

"We were actually in the river with her that day and so when we got that news, it was just complete shock," Avant, mother to Lily said. "Like, no way not my baby. Or why couldn't it have been me instead?"

The two parents now ship nose plugs to anyone who needs them. They just hosted a benefit in honor of their daughter a few weeks ago. Crawson wears a hat that says "Love Like Lily" to remember his daughter, who the two parents say loved everyone she met. They said she she could talk to anyone like they were friends for years.

"Especially as the weather warms up, we want to spread the word and spread awareness," Crawson said. "If we could save, say, one life, it's it's worth it."

There are other ways to be infected too. The infection can also be spread from person to person or by drinking contaminated water, as stated by the BRA. Usually, when jumping into the water or water skiing, it can affect people when water containing the amoeba enters through the nose, as stated by the BRA.

To prevent this, the BRA says the best way to ultimately prevent catching the infection is by not participating in water-related activities, such as swimming in a lake, river or stream. 

They also suggest that if you must swim, nose clips or holding your nose shut while jumping in the water can also help prevent catching the amoeba, according to the BRA.

The fatality rate is more than 97%, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Only four people out of 143 known infected individuals from 1962 to 2016 in the United States have survived, according to the state health services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texans should seek immediate medical attention should they have a rapid onset of fever, headache, stiff neck and vomiting. Especially if they had just been in warm waters. The exposure to surface water must be disclosed in this way to your healthcare physician.

For more information about PAM, the BRA says you can contact your local county health department or the Texas Department of State Health Services at 512-776-7111 or 1-888-963-7111. 

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