LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Lake Mead officials are warning hikers planning to head to popular hot springs below Hoover Dam: Avoid any activity that involves splashing or submerging your head.
An organism widely referred to as a “brain-eating amoeba” — Naegleria fowleri — can be present if conditions are right, the officials said.
“Naegleria fowleri has been found in hot springs,” according to a statement released by Lake Mead National Recreation Area on Wednesday. “This amoeba enters through the nose and can cause a deadly infection that causes a sudden and severe headache, fever, and vomiting. It is advised to avoid diving, splashing water, or submerging your head in hot spring water.”
Brain-eating amoeba was blamed for the death of a 2-year-old boy in July. Family told Nexstar’s KLAS he contracted the amoeba a few weeks earlier while swimming in Ash Springs, which is near the town of Alamo, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas.
The amoeba — a single-celled organism that can life in warm freshwater environments — can cause a disease known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The highest concentrations of the amoeba are found in freshwater that is 75 degrees or higher, especially for extended periods of time.
The park routinely closes some trails to hot springs during extreme summer heat, but the trails reopened on Oct. 1. Some of the springs remain accessible from the Colorado River while trails are closed. Among the best-known springs:
- Gold Strike Hot Spring, at the end of a strenuous hike (4.7 miles, round trip) from a trailhead off Interstate 11 on the Nevada side of the river
- Arizona Hot Spring, another strenuous trail (5 miles, round trip) accessed from the Arizona side of the river off I-11
- Lost Man Hot Spring, also accessed from the Arizona side
While the trails are currently open, Lake Mead officials are also reminding visitors that October weather can be inconsistent, and temperatures can fluctuate.
“Please check the weather and carry plenty of water, a first aid kit, and sun protection when hiking,” officials said.