Florida Resident Dies from Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

On February 23, the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County (DOH-Charlotte) announced that a Florida resident had died after contracting a rare “brain-eating” amoeba, likely from rinsing their nostrils with tap water.[0] The infection was caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba (single-celled living organism) which is found in soil and warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs.[1]

The agency warned people to only use distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions, stressing that it cannot be contracted by drinking tap water.[2] Tap water should be boiled for at least a minute and cooled before sinus rinsing, which typically involves a neti pot.[3]

Those infected with Naegleria fowleri can experience symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, a stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, and hallucinations.[4] This is a rare condition, however, it is almost always fatal, with a death rate of over 97%.[5]

The DOH-Charlotte is continuing the investigation, and is working with the local public utilities to identify any potential links and make any necessary corrective actions.[6]

In order to avoid contracting the brain-eating amoeba, people should not jump or dive into bodies of warm, fresh water, nor should they put their head underwater in hot springs or other untreated geothermal waters. Small hard plastic or inflatable pools should be emptied, scrubbed and allowed to dry after each use and be disinfected with chlorine before and during use.[7]

It is important to seek medical attention if any of the symptoms occur after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse.[3] The agency also recommends not to jump into or put your head under bathing water, and instead, walk or lower yourself in.

0. “Brain-eating amoeba kills person who washed nostrils with tap water” The Telegraph, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/03/03/brain-eating-amoeba-kills-person-who-washed-nostrils-tap-water/

1. “US Man Dies After Using Tap Water To Rinse His Nose, Here's Why” NDTV.com, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.ndtv.com/feature/us-man-dies-after-using-tap-water-to-rinse-his-nose-heres-why-3828072

2. “Brain-eating amoeba kills Florida man” Toronto Sun, 2 Mar. 2023, https://torontosun.com/news/world/brain-eating-amoeba-kills-florida-man

3. “Rare brain-eating amoeba kills in Florida after victim possibly rinsed nose with tap water, officials say” Fox Weather , 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.foxweather.com/earth-space/florida-brain-eating-amoeba-rinsing-nose-tap-water

4. “Florida man dies from brain-eating amoeba, possibly from nose rinse with tap water” NBC News, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/florida-man-dies-brain-eating-amoeba-nose-rinse-tap-water-rcna73067

5. “Case of “brain-eating amoeba” reported in Florida, possibly linked to sinus rinse with tap water” CBS News, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-eating-amoeba-florida-sinus-rinse-tap-water-charlotte-county/

6. “Floridians told not to get tap water on their face amid brain-eating bug fears” Daily Mail, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-11813179/Floridians-told-not-tap-water-face-amid-brain-eating-bug-fears.html

7. “Florida resident dies after contracting brain-eating amoeba from tap water” USA TODAY, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2023/03/02/florida-resident-dies-brain-eating-infection-tap-water/11381329002

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