255692 Public Health Messaging After the First Case of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis in Kansas

Monday, October 29, 2012

Deborah Fromer, MT(ASCP) MPH , Health Protection, Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Jamie DeMent, MNS , Bureau of Surveillance and Epidemiology, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Topeka, KS
Seth Konkel, BS , Health Protection, Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Amanda Matthews , Communications, Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Dante Corimanya, MD MPH , Health Protection, Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Amy Wood, MPH , Health Protection, Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Claudia Blackburn, MPH, RNC, CPM , Sedgwick County Health Department, Wichita, KS
Background: Naegleria fowleri is a small, free-living ameba that can cause a very rare, but severe, infection of the brain. This organism infects people by entering the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people swim or dive in warm freshwater.

Case history: A 14-year-old male was admitted to a local hospital through the emergency room in August 2011 with a one-day history of complications with headache, neck stiffness and fever of 101 Fahrenheit. Prior to this headache, the patient had been completely healthy. Death occurred 4 days later.

The case swam at a lake near Wichita, Kansas the weekend before illness onset. At this time, the region had been experiencing an unusually hot summer and the lake's temperature was higher than normal.

Autopsy findings confirmed the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was positive for Naegleria and brain tissue samples were sent to the CDC for further testing.

Implications/conclusions: The ensuing response was unique in that local health officials and spokespersons remained cognizant of and adhered to medical privacy boundaries pertaining to public information dissemination; however, the victim's family used social websites and other media outlets to provide information about the child's death.

Also, an event at the lake that draws 16,000 attendees was scheduled to take place one week after the death, so local health department officials issued educational materials and precautionary statements on measures to limit the amount of water that enters the nose while swimming, as well as awareness of symptoms of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the mode one can become infected by Naegleria fowleri 2. Discuss the influence of social media 3. Design a plan for issuing alerts and educating the public to prevent panic in an extremely rare, but deadly situation

Keywords: Emerging Diseases, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an epidemiologist in Sedgwick County, KS who worked on this case.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.