WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — City and county officials are warning residents of Wichita Falls and the surrounding area of the possibility of a deadly infection caused by an amoeba that may be present in area lakes and rivers.

In a press release from the City of Wichita Falls, local officials with the Wichita Falls Public Works Department and the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District advised caution to citizens who will be swimming in natural bodies of water in the area during the summer months.

According to the press release, natural bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, ponds, tanks, and streams, may contain the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.

Officials said during the warm summer months of June, July, and August, the amoeba can infect children by being forcibly injected into their sinus cavity during recreational activities, which can cause the fatal disease Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis.

Officials said the amoeba doesn’t live in swimming pools and hot tubs that are properly cleaned, maintained, and treated with chlorine and filtration.

Local health officials said while contact with Naegleria fowleri in natural bodies of water is common, infection is rare due to the only route of infection being through the nose and into the sinus cavity.

Two key precautions that citizens can take to help protect their children include:

  • Never sim or play in warm, muddy, stagnant waters
  • Teach children to hold their noses or use a nose clip when in any natural body of water, especially when the type of recreation can force water into the nose, like skiing, jet skiing, jumping, or diving

Officials said to contact a healthcare provider immediately if children start to experience any of the following symptoms within a few days of recreating in a natural body of water:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

The press release said later symptoms of the infection can include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

According to local officials, Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis is very rare, and the use of smart prevention strategies can allow for a safe and relaxing summer swim season.

For more information contact the Public Health District at (940) 761-7805, or the Cypress Water Treatment Plant at (940) 691-1153.

This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.