Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba: How to Reduce Risk and Seek Medical Care

A Florida resident has died from a rare brain-eating amoeba, health officials have said.[0] The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County (DOH-Charlotte County) warned residents to only rinse their sinuses using distilled or sterile water.[1] Tap water should be brought to a boil for at least 60 seconds and then cooled off before being used for a sinus rinse.

A microscopic single-celled amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri,[2] It lives in warm fresh water and, once ingested through the nose, can cause a rare but almost-always fatal brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).[3]

The agency suggested that the patient likely got the infection due to nasal irrigation with tap water.[4] According to the DOH-Charlotte County website, some of the signs of this infection are: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, a rigid neck, fits, lack of stability and hallucinations.[5] Exposure to death can result in many fatalities in a short period of time, sometimes only days.[6]

To prevent infection, the department recommends using sterile, distilled water for sinus rinses and tap water that has been boiled for at least one minute and then cooled. People should also avoid letting water go up the nose when bathing, showering, washing their faces, or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.[3]

Dr Mobeen Rathore, an infectious disease expert from the University of Florida, told DailyMail.com residents in the county should avoid exposing their nose to tap water – including while showering – until “officials give the all clear”.[7]

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with a total of 31 infections reported in the US between 2012 to 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[8] In the United States, only around three people are infected annually; however, these infections typically lead to fatalities.[9]

The Department is collaborating with healthcare establishments to observe any signs of further contagion.[10] If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse, seek medical assistance immediately.[2]

In general, cases of infection resulting from contaminated water entering the sinuses are quite uncommon.[11]

0. “Brain-eating amoeba death possibly linked to sinus cleansing” KTNV 13 Action News Las Vegas, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.ktnv.com/news/national/brain-eating-amoeba-death-possibly-linked-to-sinus-cleansing

1. “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

2. “Brain-eating amoeba kills Florida resident, possibly due to sinus rinse with tap water” WFTV Orlando, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.wftv.com/news/trending/brain-eating-amoeba-kills-florida-resident-possibly-due-sinus-rinse-with-tap-water/W676PNV6DFCYRD5BOLF42IESNU/

3. “A man dies of a brain-eating amoeba, possibly from rinsing his sinuses with tap water” WBUR News, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.wbur.org/npr/1160980794/neti-pot-safety-brain-eating-amoeba

4. “Florida resident dies from brain-eating amoeba” BBC, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64831778

5. “Brain-Eating Amoeba Threat in Florida: What You Need to Know” Spiel Times, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.spieltimes.com/news/brain-eating-amoeba-threat-in-florida-what-you-need-to-know/

6. “Man Dies From Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Tap Water” Newsweek, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/man-dies-brain-eating-amoeba-tap-water-florida-1785164

7. “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

8. “Florida man dies from brain-eating amoeba after rinsing sinuses with tap water: report” The Hill, 3 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3881467-florida-man-dies-from-brain-eating-amoeba-after-rinsing-sinuses-with-tap-water-report

9. “Brain-eating amoeba: Where it lives, symptoms, and how to avoid being infected” FOX 35 Orlando, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/florida-man-dies-after-contracting-brain-eating-infection-through-tap-water-report

10. “DOH Charlotte County warns about waterborne amoeba infections” Wink News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://winknews.com/2023/02/23/doh-charlotte-county-warns-about-infections-from-waterborne-amoeba/

11. “Florida Man Dies from Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection” FOX 11 and FOX 41, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.fox41yakima.com/florida-man-dies-from-brain-eating-amoeba-infection/

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