ST. PAUL -- With our hot dry weather many of us will be cooling off in one of Minnesota's over 10,000 lakes.

However, state health officials have a warning for us about something called Naegleria Fowleri. It is an ameba commonly found in warm freshwater. It causes a very rare but severe brain infection called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is often fatal.

There have been two confirmed cases of infections caused by Naegleria fowleri in Minnesota, in 2010 and 2012. In both cases, the children, ages 7 and 9, swam in Stillwater's Lily Lake and later died.

It infects you by entering the body through the nose. The ameba travels up the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue. PAM cannot be spread from person to person.

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It is commonly found in lakes in the southern United States, but it has caused infections in Minnesota. It grows best in warm or hot water. While infections are rare, they occur mainly during the late summer months of July, August, and September. Infections usually occur when it is hot for a prolonged period of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels. Infections can increase during heatwave years. Symptoms of PAM usually start about five days after infection.

Early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Later symptoms include a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. After symptoms begin, the disease can move quickly and cause death within about five days.

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