Jul 15, 2022 - News

Brain-eating amoebas are northbound; suspected in Iowa

Illustration of gloved hand holding a Petri dish with an exclamation point

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Brain-eating amoebas have increasingly expanded to northern states in recent decades, according to information published by the CDC.

Driving the news: The beach at Lake of Three Fires near Bedford has been closed since July 7 as officials investigate its possible connection to a confirmed case of the disease.

  • A Missouri resident who swam there contracted the disease and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit.

What's happening: Testing at the lake is ongoing and the beach will remain closed until it is completed, Tammie Krausman, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told Axios Thursday.

  • There's no routine testing in water and recreational users should assume there is a low-level of risk of getting it, the CDC says.

State of play: Iowa has no plans to test other lakes at this time, Krausman said.

  • It can currently take weeks to identify the amoeba, according to the CDC.

Details: It's a heat-loving organism that enters the body through the nose and causes brain infections.

  • It mainly thrives in summer months when water temps are high and levels are lower.
  • Initial symptoms are usually headaches and nausea, starting about five days after infection.

Bottom line: It's highly unlikely that a brain-eating amoeba will get you while you're at your favorite outdoor swimming hole.

  • Around 150 cases have been identified in the U.S. since 1962, according to the CDC.
  • If confirmed, the Lake of Three Fires infection would mark the first case in Iowa.

Of note: The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services did not respond to Axios' inquiry Thursday seeking information about the condition of the person who became ill after swimming at Lake of Three Fires.

U.S. confirmed cases of Naegleria fowleri, by state
Data: CDC; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more