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DSHS Will Await More Test Results in Possible PAM Case

News Release
September 7, 2007 

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials said today they will wait for the results of confirmatory laboratory tests before making a final determination on the cause of death of a Lubbock County man who died after engaging in some kind of recreational activity in Lake LBJ.

DSHS officials said this does not mean they are disputing the findings of Lubbock authorities who announced earlier today that the man died of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

PAM is caused by amebas that are commonplace in almost all lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks and other bodies of fresh water. The amebas also can be present in poorly maintained swimming pools and hot tubs.

Infection is extremely rare and is believed to occur when water containing the microorganism is forced into the nasal passages, usually when skiing, diving or jumping into the water. The amebas can then travel to the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis and encephalitis.

DSHS reminds the public to take risk-reducing precautions against contracting the amebas during recreational activities in fresh water lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks. Precautions include:

  • Do not swim or ski in stagnant water.
  • Do not dive or jump into stagnant water.
  • Hold your nose or use nose clips when jumping into any fresh water.
  • Use nose clips when skiing, jet skiing or wakeboarding.

DSHS officials said closing lakes or other bodies of water is not a standard public health protection measure against PAM given that the amebas are ubiquitous, naturally occurring microorganisms.

There have been 35 reported cases of PAM in Texas since 1972.


(News Media: for more information contact Doug McBride, DSHS Press Officer, Austin, 512-458-7524.)

Last updated February 7, 2011