Israeli Man Dies of Encephalitis Caused by Rare Amoeba

By Aryeh Stern

An ambulance seen at the entrance to the emergency ward of Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

A 26-year-old man, Israel’s second-ever recorded case of Naegleria fowleri, a rare amoeba that causes encephalitis, died on Sunday, as announced by Beilinson Hospital.

The otherwise healthy man may have come into contact with the amoeba while swimming at Gai Beach in Teveria. He was admitted to Sharon Hospital in Petach Tikva last Tuesday with symptoms including fever, headaches, and vomiting. As his condition worsened, he was transferred to Beilinson, also in Petach Tikva.

Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” can cause a brain infection when water containing the amoeba enters the nose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This amoeba thrives in warm water, but most people who swim in water sources where it is present do not get infected. Health Ministry investigators conducted samples at Gai Beach and found no evidence of amoeba contamination.

The mortality rate from encephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri is extremely high. Although infection is rare, with only around 400 cases diagnosed worldwide, it is often fatal. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, and neurological symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and hallucinations. Prompt medical attention is critical.

In August 2022, a 36-year-old man in Israel died from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a brain infection caused by the same amoeba.

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