(ABC NEWS) – A Florida family has posted a billboard to draw attention to the dangers of the “brain-eating” amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, for people swimming in local lakes, ponds and streams.
The Gompf family posted a billboard in Tampa in honor of their son, Phillip Gompf, who died from meningitis caused by Naegleria fowleri in 2009. It’s part of a campaign on water safety the family started in 2014.
“We can’t bring back our child. Protect yours, with nose clips,” the billboard reads next to a family picture with Phillip missing.
The boy’s mother, Dr. Sandra Gompf, said in a video on the family’s website that he contracted the infection after he went swimming in a lake. His first symptom was a headache that appeared five days later, the following morning Phillip’s parents had difficulty waking him up.
They rushed him to the pediatric ER.
“He was found pretty quickly to have severe meningitis and three days later he was gone,” Gompf said in a video posted on the website to draw attention to the issue.
Both of Phillip’s parents are doctors who specialize in serious infections. They are now posting the billboard and starting an online campaign to help protect other children.
“It’s 99 percent fatal, but it’s 100 percent preventable,” Gompf says in a video. “You just need to keep water out of the nose.”
There are zero to eight infections in this country from parasitic amoebas each year, and nearly all are fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advises people to take steps to avoid getting water up their nose in freshwater lakes and streams. Swimmers can keep their head above water, use a nose clip or hold their nose shut when underwater.
“If I could tell you one thing that Phillip would want you to know is to enjoy nature but to remember that natural bodies of water are alive,” she said.