Warning to Charlotte County Residents: Don’t Wash Your Face with Tap Water to Avoid Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

Health experts in Charlotte County, Florida are warning over 200,000 residents to avoid washing their face with tap water after a man died from a rare brain-eating amoeba in February.[0]

The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County said that the person likely contracted the infection “as a result of sinus rinse practices” using tap water.[1] The Department is now working with local public utilities to identify any potential link and make any necessary corrective actions.[2]

The Department is also working with healthcare facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections.[3] If you experience any of the following symptoms after a nasal water exposure, such as a sinus rinse: headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance or hallucinations, seek medical assistance immediately.[4]

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. Signs and symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, confusion, a stiff neck, unsteadiness, seizures and/or hallucinations.[5] Infections typically occur in the summer months and have a death rate of over 97%.[6]

Health officials are urging people to use distilled or sterile water only when making sinus rinse solutions.[7] Tap water should be boiled for at least a minute and cooled before sinus rinsing, which typically involves a neti pot.[8] People should also avoid jumping or diving into bodies of warm fresh water, and avoid putting their head underwater in hot springs and other untreated geothermal waters.

To prevent Naegleria fowleri infections, keep small hard plastic or inflatable pools clean by emptying, scrubbing, and allowing them to dry after each use. Swimming pools should be disinfected and blow-up pools should be cleaned after each use.[9] Children should not be left unattended while playing with hoses or sprinklers, as they could unintentionally get water in their nose.[10] Do not engage in activities such as slip-n-slides, where it is difficult to prevent water from entering the nose.[11] Do not jump into or put your head under bathing water.

0. “Florida residents warned about tap water after man dies from brain-eating amoeba” FOX 35 Orlando, 4 Mar. 2023, https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/florida-residents-warned-about-tap-water-after-man-dies-from-brain-eating-amoeba

1. “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/

2. “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

3. “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/

4. “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

5. “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

6. “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/

7. “Brain-eating amoeba death possibly linked to sinus cleansing” Denver 7 Colorado News, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.denver7.com/news/national/brain-eating-amoeba-death-possibly-linked-to-sinus-cleansing

8. “Is Charlotte County's tap water safe following report of amoeba infection” FOX 4 News Fort Myers WFTX, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.fox4now.com/charlotte-county/is-charlotte-countys-tap-water-safe-following-report-of-amoeba-infection

9. “A man dies of a brain-eating amoeba, possibly from rinsing his sinuses with tap water” NPR, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/03/1160980794/neti-pot-safety-brain-eating-amoeba

10. “‘Brain-eating' amoeba case in Florida potentially tied to unfiltered water in sinus rinse” Livescience.com, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.livescience.com/brain-eating-amoeba-case-in-florida-potentially-tied-to-unfiltered-water-in-sinus-rinse

11. “Florida: Naegleria fowleri case confirmed in Charlotte County, Possibly contracted via sinus rinsing – Outbreak News …” Outbreak News Today, 23 Feb. 2023, http://outbreaknewstoday.com/florida-naegleria-fowleri-case-confirmed-in-charlotte-county-possibly-contracted-via-sinus-rinsing-98511/

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