Brain-Eating Amoeba: Take Precautions in Charlotte County, FL
Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” is a single-celled living organism typically found in soil and warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs. If the amoeba is inhaled up the nose, it can cause a deadly brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 4 out of 154 people in the United States have survived this infection from 1962 to 2021.
The infection is almost always fatal. The Florida Department of Health, in a press release, stated that DOH-Charlotte is engaging in a multi-agency response to investigate how the infection occurred and is collaborating with local public utilities to identify any potential connection and take any required corrective steps.
The infection was recently reported in South Florida when a man used tap water to rinse his nose and died from a brain-eating amoeba. The CDC said it is the first case ever in Florida where a person was infected through tap water, and the first ever case reported in winter months in the US.
The Health Department in Charlotte County has advised residents to follow a few precautions when in contact with warm freshwater, such as not jumping into or putting the head under bathing water, and keeping plastic or blow-up pools clean after every use. Additionally, when making sinus rinse solutions, only distilled or sterile water should be used, and tap water should be boiled for at least one minute and cooled before sinus rinsing.
The CDC also said that infection with Naegleria fowleri is rare and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose. Therefore, drinking tap water cannot cause infection.
Residents in Charlotte County should take extra precaution when swimming in warm freshwater and seek medical attention if any of the following symptoms occur: loss of balance, headaches, fever, nausea, or vomiting.
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1. “A person who got a brain-eating amoeba from tap water in US could have caught it while rinsing sinuses” Business Insider South Africa, 26 Feb. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.co.za/deadly-brain-eating-amoeba-infection-florida-naegleria-fowleri-2023-2
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