Locals concerned about 'brain-eating' amoeba in Edisto River

VIDEO: Locals concerned about 'brain-eating' amoeba in Edisto River

RIDGEVILLE, SC (WCSC) - There's concern for people along the Edisto River following news of a patient fighting a "brain-eating" amoeba.

Sources say an 11-year-old girl is being treated at MUSC with Naegleria fowleri, an extremely rare infection of the brain.

Officials believe the exposure happened on July 24 when the girl was swimming near Martin's Landing on the Edisto River.

The Center for Disease Control confirmed the case in South Carolina Tuesday.

Now several people along the say they're a bit nervous to get back in the water after hearing about this potentially deadly infection being exposed so close to them.

"We're really concerned," said Tina Heyward, who works at Black Water Bait & Tackle along US 17-A. "I have been out there every weekend kayaking and swimming to that sandbar."

While doctors say this infection is extremely rare, the most recent case of this brain eating amoeba is causing some people to think twice before getting in the water.

"I have kids and my one son likes to swim in the river," said Ron Matteson, who lives a block from the river. "I'm really concerned about that."

"It will make you think about I," added Robbie Warden, who went kayaking on the river Wednesday. "It's something to think about, I mean it's a serious thing."

Activity on the Edisto was almost non-existent Wednesday, according to Warden.

Doctors say the infection from Naeglaria fowleri is extremely difficult to contract requiring very specific circumstances.

First you have to be swimming in water where the amoeba is present. Secondly you have to jump into the water feet-first, which allows the water to go up your nose with enough force that the amoeba can make its way to the brain.

The Edisto River, particularly Martin's Landing, is a hot spot on the weekends for tubing, kayaking and swimming.

Rope swings on trees can be found at the landing.  Some locals speculate the infection could have happened because of that river activity, but still feel it can happen other ways.

"If I was out tubing and I heard about this, I would be worried about this happening to me and my kids if they were out tubing," Matteson said.

Symptoms for this infection include changes in your sense of smell and taste, headaches, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.

The Department of Health says the amoeba is rare but you can get it from warm untreated fresh water.

It can commonly be found in places where water levels are low and warm.

"That water (Edisto River) is warm and it's low," Heyward said. "So there's nowhere for it to go."

"This time of year the water is always low like this," Warden added. "Unless you have a lot of rain upstate and it rising up."

Doctors urge you to be prepared if you plan to make your way into any fresh water.

"Use nose plugs and all that," Heyward said. "You gotta know it's out there. That water is… it's got all kinds of stuff in it, so if you're going out there be prepared."

Officials are stressing this is a very rare infection. If you follow the preventative measures, then you should stay safe and healthy.

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