Perth’s record-breaking heatwave could be the catalyst for a potentially fatal brain bug, experts have warned.
The Naegleria fowleri amoeba lives in fresh water and damp soil, thriving in water temperatures between 28C and 40C.
If water containing the active amoebae gets into the nose, the bug can travel to the brain, cause inflammation and potentially destroy brain tissue.
The condition, known as amoebic meningitis, is very rare but can be fatal.
And so, with Perth blasting through the 40C barrier for the fifth day in a row on Saturday, West Australians are being asked to take precautions to protect themselves.
Department of Health managing scientist Richard Theobald said it was important to ensure any water parents or kids played in was properly treated and maintained.
“In addition to pools and spas, children often cool down in water from garden hoses or sprinklers, wading pools, and on regional properties, rivers, dams and lakes,” Mr Theobald said.
“As amoebae thrive in water temperatures between 28C and 40C, it should be assumed that any warm fresh water potentially contains the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.
“The infection can affect people at any age, however, children and young adults are usually more susceptible to the infection due to their recreational water use and activities.”
While there has not been a case of amoebic meningitis in Western Australia since the 1980s, Mr Theobald said swimmers and splashers should not to be complacent.
“The amoeba is naturally occurring in the environment and cannot be eradicated,” he said.
“This means that the risk of contracting this infection is always real, and precautions must always be taken. Even with treatment amoebic meningitis is usually fatal – prevention is vital.”
The advice is that pool and spa owners should closely monitor and check chlorine levels are within a safe range.
And wading pool water should also be changed after use – because it provides the perfect environment for the amoeba to grow.
“Similarly, people swimming in dams or playing with garden hoses or sprinklers (regardless of water source) also need to be vigilant and ensure no water from these sources enters the nose,” Mr Theobald said.
Some tips to avoid the brain bug include to not sniff water into the nose, run all water from the hose or sprinkler for a few minutes before play and stay out of dirty pools, waterholes, dams, swimming pools or spas.