Horizon Public Health News Release: Lake Minnewaska

Minnesota summers bring many people to our area lakes and rivers. With any freshwater recreational activity, there is a low-level risk of infection from an ameba called Naegleria fowleri. This ameba is commonly found in fresh waters and soils worldwide so many persons are exposed to it daily as they enjoy water related activities. Very rarely, it can cause a severe brain infection, Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). Despite the fact that it is extremely rare, when it occurs, it is devastating. The MN Department of Health is currently investigating a suspected case of PAM in a child who swam in Lake Minnewaska.

Earlier today, public health, healthcare, city officials, law enforcement and others met to discuss this situation. First of all, we want the child and family to know that our thoughts are with them as they deal with this devastating disease. We have been in touch with state health officials regarding the potential risk for the general population. An individual’s risk of contracting this disease from area lakes and streams is low.

In conversation with the Minnesota Department of Health, there is no greater risk in Lake Minnewaska than anywhere else, despite the development of this case. Persons do not need to avoid partaking in summer activities on Lake Minnewaska. Although city officials temporarily closed the beaches last evening while gathering information, the beaches have been reopened.

The Naegleria ameba infects people by entering thorough the nose and traveling up to the brain and spinal cord. Personal actions to reduce the risk of Naegleria fowleri infection could include:

It is likely that a low risk of Naegleria infection will always exist with recreational use of Minnesota’s freshwater lakes and rivers. It is important to remember that the occurrence of PAM is extremely rare. Despite hundreds of millions of recreational water activities each year, only 35 cases of PAM have been reported in the United States in the last 10 years.

It’s summertime in MN. We urge you to continue to enjoy the multitude of lake activities that are available all around us.

Additional information regarding Naegleria and PAM is available at the following links:

MDH Fact Sheet

CDC Fact Sheet

CDC Map of cases:


Additionally, concerned persons may contact Horizon Public Health at 320-634-7822 or their primary care clinic.

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