A man has died from a brain-eating amoeba. The Florida Department of Health (DOH-Charlotte) in Charlotte County said that it may have been a result of sinus rinsing with tap water but that investigations were still ongoing. No further details about the man have been released.
Infection by the microscopic single-celled living amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, is rare and can only occur when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose. In such cases, the amoeba can cause an infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). People cannot become infected by drinking tap water, DOH-Charlotte points out.
The health authority has provided tips to help avoid Naegleria fowleri infections:
- When making sinus rinse solutions, use only distilled or sterile water. Tap water should be boiled for at least 1 minute and cooled before sinus rinsing.
- DO NOT allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face, or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.
- DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small hard plastic/blow-up pools) – walk or lower yourself in.
- DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, as they may accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water going up the nose.
- Keep small hard plastic or blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing, and allowing them to dry after each use.
- Keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use.
The Department said it is working with healthcare facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections. It is providing nasal clips and educational materials at 1100 Loveland Blvd, Port Charlotte, FL 33980 while supplies last.
DOH-Charlotte says it is essential to seek medical attention right away 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.