Brain-Eating Amoeba: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe
On Thursday, Charlotte County Health officials confirmed that a resident had been infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba, most likely after using a nasal rinser with tap water. The infection has been linked to the death of the Florida man, who reportedly rinsed his sinuses with unboiled tap water on a daily basis.
Commonly known as the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that can result in a fatal infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only four people in the U.S. out of 151 from 1962 until 2020 have survived the infection.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH-Charlotte) issued a warning for residents to only use distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions. Tap water should be boiled for at least a minute and cooled before being used as a sinus rinse. It is also advised not to let water get up the nose when bathing, showering or swimming and to keep small hard plastic or blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry after each use.
The Department is also working with health care facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections. If you experience any of the following symptoms after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse, seek medical assistance immediately: loss of balance, confusion, seizures, and hallucinations.
The Florida Department of Health assures that people can't get infected with brain-eating amoeba by drinking tap water. Infections occur only when water containing contaminants enters the body through the nose. However, it is still important to keep plastic or blow-up pools clean after every use and not to jump into or put your head under bathing water – walk or lower yourself in.
The CDC reports that about three people in the United States get infected each year, and these infections are usually deadly. It’s even rarer to survive, as only four people have been known to have survived out of the 154 confirmed cases between 1962 and 2021.
It is important to note that drinking water will not result in the consumption of a brain-eating amoeb It needs to be inhaled through the nose.
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