FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   Contact: Dain Weister  

March 25, 2011                                                                                                   (407) 858-1429




ORLANDOAs the weather starts to get warmer this spring break, the Orange County Health Department is reminding families about water safety and the dangers of the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, found in fresh water.  Families should also remember that bacteria and other harmful organisms can live in warm fresh water such as lakes. In addition, when around water avoid contact with wildlife and do not feed wildlife. People should never get in the water if a storm is in the area or dive in shallow water. Parents should also always remember to keep their eyes on the kids, and encourage children to swim with a partner. As always, people should seek medical attention immediately if getting sick after swimming.


“This is the time of year families start returning to the water, and we all need to remember to be careful and safe.  These few tips can help keep a child safe and maybe even save a life,” said Dr. Kevin M. Sherin, Director of the Orange County Health Department.  


Amoeba can thrive in any fresh water such as lakes, ponds, or rivers. This amoeba is naturally occurring in any body of fresh water such as lakes, rivers, hot springs and poorly maintained and minimally-chlorinated or un-chlorinated swimming pools.  This amoeba can cause an infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) by traveling up the nose to the brain and spinal cord. This generally happens during activities such as swimming, diving, waterskiing, or wakeboarding. 


Some measures that might reduce your risk of infection include:


  • Avoiding water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
  • Avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Keeping your head out of the water, holding your nose shut or using nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
  • Avoiding digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas. 


The safest way to prevent infection from an amoeba is to not swim in warm standing water, such as lakes, ponds, poorly maintained swimming pools, storm water holding areas or in places posted “no swimming”. 


For more information on water safety, go to the Orange County Health Department website at  For an in depth fact sheet on amoeba, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at