Media Advisory: State, national health officials to focus on dangerous freshwater parasite

WHAT:              Faculty from the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute and the College of Public Health and Health Professions will meet with officials from the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss current research on Naegleria fowleri, a type of freshwater amoeba, or parasite. People infected with the amoeba often develop primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, which can cause fever, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, and leads to a coma. In most cases, people die in three to seven days after the onset of symptoms. Little is known about PAM and scientists hope this meeting will lead to new research to focus on preventing these rare but serious infections.

 

WHEN:              Wednesday, March 23

 

WHERE:           University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute

2055 Mowry Road, Gainesville 

 

WHO:                  Attendees Amanda Rice, Ph.D., a UF postdoctoral researcher leading the meeting, and Jeremy Lewis are available for interviews. Lewis’ son Kyle died last summer after being infected by Naegleria fowleri. The Texas family founded the Kyle Lewis Amoeba Awareness Foundation to raise money and public knowledge about the parasite. The UF meeting is not intended for the public, but reporters can arrange to cover it.

 

NOTES:             Health officials say there have been 111 recorded cases of amoeba deaths in the United States between 1962 and 2008, and Texas and Florida lead the nation in deaths from Naegleria fowleri infection. Rice says she hopes to conduct studies of people who are often exposed to freshwater lakes to see if they may carry an antibody that protects against amoebic infections. To learn more about the Kyle Lewis Amoeba Awareness Foundation, visit kylecares.com or call 817-822-0046.

 

CONTACT:   To arrange interviews with Rice or Lewis, please  contact Jill Pease at 352-273-5816 or jpease@phhp.ufl.edu.