Special Topics

County Hot Topics

This page provides information on specific communicable conditions.

Safe Swim Season

Naegleria fowleri and primary amebic meningoencephalitis or PAM

The ameba Naegleria fowleri is found in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperatures and low water levels. It causes a very rare fatal brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis or PAM. Naegleria fowleri causes an infection that develops when the ameba enters the human body through the nose, making their way to the brain. Symptoms may occur within one to seven days and starts with headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck.
Bacteria and other harmful organisms thrive in warm, standing water. There is a low level of Naegleria fowleri risk when entering any warm, freshwater. In recent summers, Washington County has experienced two deaths in children related to illnesses from PAM.

Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know develops any of these symptoms after swimming in freshwater.

Click Here to order FREE materials listed below:


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection involving the respiratory system. Symptoms include a cough lasting more than seven days, often accompanied by post-tussive vomiting and/or a “whooping” sound with inhalation. This distinctive sound is more prevalent in children with pertussis.
Although pertussis is often considered a childhood illness, a large number of cases occur in adolescents and adults. Older adolescents and adults are the primary carriers of the pertussis bacteria. Infants and very young children typically experience more severe illness, and are often the initial cases indicating an increase of disease within a community. Washington County saw a significant increase in pertussis cases in 2012, primarily in the early adolescent (10-14 years) population. Factors behind this rise include under-vaccination of children, waning immunity from childhood vaccinations, and under-recognition of mild cases of the disease in older adolescents and adults.

Due to the recognition of waning immunity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends one dose of pertussis-containing vaccine (Tdap) for adolescents and adults, especially those who are caregivers of or in close contact with infants younger than 12 months, including healthcare workers. Tdap vaccine is available at most medical clinics, including retail clinics and some pharmacies. For those without insurance, Tdap vaccine is available through Washington County Public Health.

Pertussis information from the Minnesota Department of Health.