Editor's note: The headline of this story was updated to reflect that the amebic infection has resulted in one death.

A Travis County resident died in August after swimming in Lake Lyndon B. Johnson and developing an illness caused by an amebic meningitis infection, according to an Aug. 30 news release from Austin Public Health.

APH officials stated a sample specimen from the case has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further identification.

The specifics

According to the APH news release, amebic meningitis infections are rare and usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.

The infection is not found in saltwater or in properly chlorinated pools, and there have only been 39 known infected individuals in Texas since 1962. However, APH officials said precautions should always be taken when swimming in natural bodies of water, especially during unusual heat.

Here’s how amebic meningitis infections work:
  • The infection does not occur if water is swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose during activities such as diving or water skiing.
  • Symptoms start with severe headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting and can progress to a stiff neck, seizures and a coma.
  • The infection can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure.
Major takeaways

To reduce the risk of amebic infection, APH officials gave the following precautions to be taken during water activities in warm freshwater areas:
  • Avoid water activities during periods of low water levels with high temperatures.
  • Limit the amount of water going up your nose by holding your nose shut, using nose clips or keeping your head above the water.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment in shallow water.
What the experts say

"Although these infections are very rare, this is an important reminder that there are microbes present in natural bodies of water that can pose risks of infection,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority. “Increased temperatures over the summer make it ideal for harmful microorganisms to grow and flourish."