Father speaks out about deadly amoeba in freshwater

By: Morgan Downing Email
By: Morgan Downing Email

GRAYSON COUNTY, TX -- Since 1995 six people in Oklahoma have died of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis. In Texas, 11 have died.

The Army Corps of Engineers said people should be ok to come out to local lakes and rivers, but one father thinks otherwise and is spreading his message across the country in the hopes of saving other lives.

An extremely deadly amoeba lurks in our lakes and rivers.
It causes PAM, a form of meningitis, that took the life of 9-year-old Dalton Counts, of Colbert, Oklahoma.

Now the Army Corps of engineers wants to make sure people are educated and exercise caution.

"Very, very rare. It's an organism that is present in all bodies of water," said BJ Parkey with the Army Corp. of Engineers.

But one Texas father says although it's rare, if contracted it can have devastating affects.

PAM took the life of his son, Kyle Lewis in 2010, after he went swimming in a Texas lake. Since then, it's been his mission to raise awareness.

"The reason we established the foundation is primarily just to spread awareness and educate people that this deadly danger lurks in all fresh bodies of water, and nobody knows about it," Jeremy Lewis said.

Lewis started Kyle Cares because he doesn't think health officials are doing enough to educate the public about the deadly amoeba.
Every time a victim's family reaches out to the foundation, Lewis says it brings back painful memories.

"It hurts for us because every time we relive it. But, we wouldn't have it any other way because we know that it's getting out there," Lewis said.

It's the Kyle Cares Facebook page Dalton Count's family reached out to when they learned their son had died from PAM. Lewis said since the post about Dalton's death, more than 30,000 people have shared Dalton's story.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said they don't test for the amoeba because it's rare.
So, Lewis is taking matters into his own hands.
He and the Houston Baptist University are sampling water from three Texas lakes to prove it's there.

The amoeba becomes more prevalent in 80 degree waters.

"Right now Lake Texoma we're running around 85 86 degrees. Last summer we even climbed above that. We strongly encourage coming out to the lake, but then again exercise caution and good safety," Parkey said.

But Lewis said he hopes families don't take their kids into the hot waters.

"From one father, from one mother who has lost their kid, to the parents that just lost their child in Oklahoma, it's just not worth it," Lewis said.

If you're going to swim in the water, you should use nose plugs or even a swimming mask because the amoeba travels through the nose and into the brain. Avoid going under water and diving.

For more information about the amoeba and to see the Kyle Cares foundation in action, we've posted a link below.

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