It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it's true. An organism found in warm freshwater lakes can enter through your nose, and eat away at your brain until you're dead, in about two weeks. It's nearly always fatal.
According to the Center for Disease Control, six have died, the largest number of deaths recorded in any one year. The culprit is an ameoba found in warm waters called Naegleria fowleri, which has killed 23 people in the United States from 1995 to 2004. Health officials report a spike with six cases so far in 2007. Three victims were from Florida, two from Texas and one from Arizona. All six of the victims were boys or young men.
Of interest to environmentalists and other watchers of climate change, the CDC says that rising climate temperatures could be a culprit in this year's increase in cases.
In a sign of the growing recognition of the seriousness of this condition, combined with its odd-sounding name and nature, this week the little-known ailment broke through the mainstream media's fixation on celebrity journalism and was extensively covered on networks such as CNN, MSNBC and the morning news shows.
More from The Daily Green's coverage of the Brain-Eating Amoeba:
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