Florida Resident Dies from Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba: How to Avoid Infection
The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County has confirmed the death of a Florida resident due to a rare brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, which likely entered the body through contaminated tap water used for sinus rinsing. The Department is now working with healthcare facilities to monitor any additional infections and investigate the cause of this tragedy.
The infection is caused by a single-celled living organism, which thrives in warm fresh water like lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It can also survive in poorly maintained or minimally chlorinated swimming pools. The infection is known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and progresses quickly, with the patient usually dying within 18 days or less of symptoms appearing. Symptoms can range from a headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, a stiff neck, a loss of balance, seizures and/or hallucinations.
To avoid infection, the health department is urging people to use only distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions and to boil tap water for at least one minute and cool before using it for sinus rinsing. People should also avoid jumping into or putting their head under bathing water, and keep small hard plastic or inflatable pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry after each use. Swimming pools should be disinfected before and during use.
This is the first case of a person being infected with Naegleria fowleri through tap water in Florida, and the first reported case in the US this year and the first in winter months. The Department is encouraging anyone experiencing the symptoms of PAM after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse, to seek medical attention immediately.
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