The Minnesota Department of Health is warning swimmers that a very rare brain-eating amoeba may be present in Minnesota lakes. The department’s infectious disease director Kris Ehresman told reporters that because the weather has been so warm since the beginning of the month in Minnesota, swimmers should assume the rare amoeba called Naegleria fowleri is present in the state’s lakes and rivers and take proper precautions.

The amoeba likes prolonged stretches of hot weather. It enters through a swimmer’s nose and travels to their brain, where it destroys brain tissue. There have been only two confirmed cases of the amoeba in the state, one in 2010 and one in 2012 but both from Lily Lake in Stillwater. A suspected infection in 2015 in Glenwood’s Lake Minnewaska involved a 10 year old boy, but it was later determined that his death was not caused by the rara amoeba.

Ehresman said the risk can be reduced by keeping your head out of the water and using nose clips or plugging your nose when going underwater. Swimmers should also avoid digging or stirring up the sediment at the bottom of the lake or river.

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