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Oklahoman dies after contracting amoeba at Lake Murray

A Carter County resident has died after contracting a deadly disease while swimming in Lake Murray, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The Department of Health would not release the name or age of that person, but are warning residents to take precautions when swimming in natural bodies of water.

The disease is called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis or PAM. The disease is very rare, and is usually deadly. According to the Department of Health, the Naegleria fowleri Amoeba that causes the disease is naturally present in most lakes, ponds, and rivers, and will multiply rapidly in very warm stagnant water.

Anyone can be exposed to the disease when diving or submerging your head into contaminated water.

"If you're diving or playing or swimming and you accidentally inhale water into your nose, and the amoeba gets into your nose it travels up into the brain and causes encephalitis," says Laurence Burnsed, and Epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The Department of Health says it's more prevalent in warmer months.

The disease cannot spread from person to person, but can result in death in just a matter of days.

Since 1999, there have only been seven cases in Oklahoma. It usually occurs in Southern States.

OSDH also released the following tips for safe swimming:

Avoid forcing water up the nose when swimming, playing, jumping, diving, or dunking your head into bodies of fresh water, such as lakes and ponds. This is especially important for water that is near shore, shallow, and warm.

Hold your nose or use nose plugs when jumping or diving into water.

Never swim in stagnant water, water that is cloudy and green, water that has mats of algae, or water that has a foul odor.

Do not swim in areas posted as "No Swimming".

Avoid swallowing water from rivers, lakes, streams, or stock ponds.

Swimming in properly maintained pools prevents PAM because chlorine rapidly kills the ameba.

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