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A Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection Reported in Florida from Tap Water

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FL - The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County confirmed a person has been infected with a rare and deadly brain-eating amoeba. Officials said the case is possibly the result of the persons rinsing their sinuses with tap water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ameba enters the body through the nose. It typically happens when people go swimming or diving or when they put their heads under fresh water, like in lakes and rivers. The ameba travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys the brain tissue and causes a devastating infection. These infections are almost always fatal. Symptoms may be similar to bacterial meningitis and usually start about five days after infection and may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Later symptoms can include a stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations, and coma. After symptoms start, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days.

  • 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 noses. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water from 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.

  • Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water, such as water around power plants.

  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm, freshwater areas.

Additional Sources and Reading:

  • Charlotte County Florida Department of Health Notice: https://charlotte.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2023/02/02-23-2023PressReleaseNaegleriaFowleri.html

  • CDC FAQ about Naegleria fowleri, commonly known as the "brain-eating ameba:" https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html

  • Thermally polluted water and Amoeba: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7129236/

  • Warm discharge water should under no conditions be used directly for sports and recreational purposes: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7119430/

Support grassroots advocacy, freelance journalism, and independent science by donating to Fight for Zero, a nonprofit organization fighting for zero diseases by protecting natural resources. Visit fight4zero.org to learn more.


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