Avoid Tap Water for Sinus Rinses: Florida DOH Warns of Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba
Health officials in Charlotte County, Florida have warned residents to avoid washing their face with tap water following the death of a man from a rare brain-eating amoeba he likely contracted from rinsing his nasal sinuses with tap water. The Florida Department of Health (DOH-Charlotte) is continuing to investigate how the infection occurred and is working with the local public utilities to identify any potential links and make any necessary corrective actions.
Infections with Naegleria fowleri 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 (CDC). N. fowleri infections are associated with headaches, fever, nausea, loss of balance, disorientation, seizures, and a stiff neck. Patients typically expire within 18 days or less after the onset of symptoms, as the illness progresses rapidly.
DOH-Charlotte is recommending that people use only distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions, and that tap water should be boiled for at least one minute and cooled before sinus rinsing. In addition, people should not let water go up their nose or sniff water into their nose when bathing, showering, washing their face or swimming in small hard plastic or blow-up pools. Plastic or inflatable pools should be emptied, scrubbed and allowed to dry after each use, and swimming pools should be disinfected with chlorine before and during use. Children should not be allowed to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, and activities such as slip-n-slides should be avoided where it is difficult to prevent water from going up the nose.
If anyone experiences any of the symptoms after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse, they should seek medical attention immediately. DOH-Charlotte is also working with healthcare facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections.
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