The Florida Department of Health reports that a local man was infected with Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled amoeba that causes an uncommon but fatal brain infection, after undergoing a nasal rinse.
On February 23, Florida health officials in Charlotte County verified that a man had died from the unusual “brain-eating” amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The amoeba likely entered the man’s nose while he washed his face or used tap water to clear his sinuses, according to an NPR article.
Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled microorganism that inhabits warm freshwater, including lakes and rivers, hot springs, tap water, and poorly maintained recreational pools. Moreover, it can inhabit hot water heaters. Although uncommon, the amoeba can cause a particularly lethal brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
CDC reports that PAM is almost invariably deadly. From 1962 to 2021, only four persons out of 154 known infected individuals in the United States have survived. Nonetheless, infections often occur during the summer, making the Florida case exceptional.
The Florida Department of Health stated in an amended news release on March 2 that an inquiry into the man’s death is underway. Nonetheless, the government advises that inhabitants of Charlotte County should take precautions until more is known about the infection’s cause.
They specify that tap water should never be used for nasal rinses; instead, distilled or sterile water should be used. In addition, when bathing, showering, or cleaning their faces, inhabitants should not allow water to enter the nose. In addition, bathers should not dive or submerge their heads in the water.
However, officials stress that Naegleria fowleri can only infect humans through the nose; the amoeba cannot be acquired by drinking tap water. If a person feels headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations following exposure to nasal water in Florida, they should seek emergency medical assistance.