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Couple warns of dangers of brain-eating amoebas in fresh water after son's death

"We don't want this to happen to anyone else."
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jun 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-29 17:39:52-04
A Tampa couple who lost their son to a rare brain-eating amoeba is using their tragedy to help save lives. 
 
"Tim and I are both doctors of serious diseases and infections and we couldn't save our son" said Dr. Sandra Gompf, an infectious disease specialist. 
 
Gompf's 9-year-old son, Phillip, died in 2009 after a swimming trip to Lake Arietta in Polk County. Her son was infected by a microscopic amoeba called Naegleria Fowleri (commonly referred to as brain-eating amoeba). 
 
The parasite lives in warm fresh water over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and can even be found in pipes and water heaters. 
 
Following her son's death, Gompf teamed up the the University of South Florida to launch the website "amoeba-season.com," to inform others of the dangers of swimming in fresh water. 
 
"Prevent amoebic meningitis with basic safety precautions like putting on a nose clip and keeping your head dry," says a male voice in a PSA on the website as images of children diving into a lake plays.  
 
Brain-eating amoeba's enter the body through the nose and spreads to the brain causing a severe infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
 
The latest data from the CDC shows only 3 people have survived after contracted the rare disease. 
 
"We don't want this to happen to anyone else, " said Dr. Gompf. 
 
In 2013, 12-year-old Zac Reyna of Labelle, Fl was wake-boarding in a ditch near his home when the virus entered his body and attacked. 
 
The most recent case took the life of an Ohio woman who is believed to have contracted the disease during a trip to the U.S National Whitewater Center in North Carolina. 
 
The park has been shut down for several weeks while officials decontaminate the area. 
 
While the disease is extremely deadly, there are simple ways to prevent it: don't allow water to enter your nose, 
keep your head above water. If you are going under, hold your nose or use a nose clip. 
 
Click here for safety tips on swimming in fresh water.