A warm summer’s day. A swim in the lake. Kids splashing in the water. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? But consider the frightening aftermath. A few days after your swim, your head is aching and your eyes are so sensitive to light you can’t bear to open them. You throw up. You shake and shiver from a high fever. Soon you can’t focus, and your body is racked by seizures. In a week, you are dead. The disease is amebic meningitis, and it’s caused by a microorganism called Naegleria fowleri, which can be found throughout the world, living in freshwater lakes and ponds, in hot springs, even in swimming pools.
Remember that pleasant little swim in the lake? Maybe you inhaled some water. The deadly organism entered your nasal passages and traveled through semi-porous barrier called the cribriform plate, to invade your brain. Of the more than one hundred reported cases of amebic meningitis, only four survived. Most of the victims, strangely enough, are healthy children and young adults — precisely the population you’d expect to be most resistant to disease. But this is one infection where the elders hold the advantage. As you grow older, your cribriform plate seals over, making it an effective barrier against invasion by Naegleria. Children and teenagers don’t yet have this protection. For them, a swim in warm freshwater may prove fatal.
A similar infectious pattern occurs in Tess’s medical thriller BLOODSTREAM. When the children and teenagers of a small Maine town suddenly turn violent and begin to kill, Dr. Claire Elliot suspects the reason for their frightening behavior lies in the waters of nearby Locust Lake. What is the source of the lake’s mysterious green glow? Why is her own son beginning to act strangely? And why did a similar epidemic occur fifty years ago in this normally peaceful town? The answer to this mystery lies in the past. The ancient past.