Warning: Don’t Rinse Your Sinuses with Tap Water – Brain-Eating Amoeba in Florida May Be to Blame
Residents of Charlotte County, Florida are being warned not to rinse their sinuses with tap water after a man died from a brain-eating amoeba that may have been contracted this way. The Florida Department of Health (DOH-Charlotte) reported on February 23 that the man, who has not been named, was infected with Naegleria fowleri, a rare microscopic, single-celled living amoeba.
This infection is known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and only occurs when contaminated water enters the nose. The Department of Health in Charlotte (DOH-Charlotte) emphasizes that drinking tap water does not cause people to become infected. The agency recommends using distilled or sterile water only when making sinus rinse solutions and boiling tap water for at least one minute and cooling before sinus rinsing.
The agency also warns not to let kids play with hoses or sprinklers unsupervised, and to avoid slip-n-slides or other similar activities where it's hard to prevent water from getting in the nose. Other recommendations include avoiding putting your head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters, and keeping plastic or inflatable pools clean by emptying, scrubbing, and allowing them to dry after each use.
Symptoms of a Naegleria fowleri infection can include headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, a stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, and hallucinations. Patients suffering from the illness usually perish within 18 days or less due to its rapid progression.
The Florida Department of Health is working with healthcare facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections. 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.
Only approximately three individuals in the US become infected annually with this virus, though typically it results in death. Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is a brain infection caused by contracting Naegleria fowleri. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that this illness has a death rate of more than 97%, making it almost always fatal.
FOX 4 Fort Myers reported that, according to the CDC, this is the first instance of a Florida resident being infected through tap water. This is the first instance in the U.S. to take place during a winter month.
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