Brain-eating amoeba: What is it, and how do you prevent contracting it?

Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis, can be caught in warm water locations. (

FOX NEWS - The family of an Ohio teen that died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba during a Whitewater rafting trip last June recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a North Carolina recreation facility.

Lauren Seitz died in June 2016 after contracting meningoencephalitis when she was thrown overboard during a rafting trip near Charlotte, according to the New York Daily News.

The deadly infection is caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

Swimmers enjoying the summer weather may want to take some extra precautions to prevent contracting the dangerous brain-eating amoeba.

Here’s what you need to know.

What does the brain-eating amoeba do?

A single-celled organism, it "causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue and causes swelling and death," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How does the amoeba enter the body and reach the brain?

The amoeba gets into the body via the nose, and people can be infected while swimming in freshwater lakes or rivers. There has to be significant force to send the water and amoeba into the brain (jumping into the water could cause the infection to occur).

Where does the amoeba live?

Naegleria fowleri lives in many lakes, rivers and streams in warm water locations. The amoeba can also live in swimming pools that aren't being properly maintained.

What sort of symptoms can people show?

Infected people may experience symptoms ranging from headache, fever, and seizures to a stiff neck and vomiting.

How fatal are infections?

There were 143 known U.S. infections from 1962 to 2016. 139 of them were fatal, according to the CDC.

How can survivors be treated?

Some survivors have been treated with miltefosine, a drug which originally was used to treat breast cancer, and by lowering their body temperatures.

One survivor, Sebastian DeLeon, was 16 years old last summer when he suffered a severe headache and was taken to a Florida hospital by his parents. Acting on a hunch, emergency room doctors ordered a spinal tap to test for meningitis, and a lab scientist found the amoeba moving in the spinal fluid.

Doctors lowered the teen's body temperature to 33 degrees, induced a coma, inserted a breathing tube and gave him a cocktail of drugs, including miltefosine, that helped kill the amoeba.

How can swimmers prevent contracting the amoeba?

Health officials recommend that swimmers hold their noses or wear nose clips when jumping feet first into freshwater lakes and rivers. The lower the water level and the warmer the water, the greater the risk of contracting the amoeba, officials have said.