A Florida resident is dead after state health officials said they contracted a rare brain-eating infection, likely from tap water.
The person, who has not been named, was a resident of Charlotte County, Jae Williams, press secretary with the Florida Department of Health told USA TODAY on Thursday. Williams said the person died last week from a microscopic amoeba called naegleria fowleri.
The state health department did not release the exact day the person died.
Health officials in Charlotte County, located just south of Sarasota, on Feb. 23, said a man had been infected with the rare “brain-eating” amoeba.
The health department said it was working with health care facilities to monitor any additional infections.
Rinsing sinuses with tap water
Williams said the case is possibly the result of the person rinsing their sinuses with tap water.
“Naegleria fowleri is oddly specific and relatively very difficult to contract because it has to go directly through the nose into the sinus and enter the brain,” Williams said. “It’s common in freshwater, particular standing freshwater like that baking in the sun.”
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The county health department could immediately be reached by USA TODAY.
But earlier this month county health officials said, “DOH-Charlotte, as part of a multi-agency response, is continuing to investigate how this infection occurred and is working with the local public utilities to identify any potential link and make any necessary corrective actions.”
What is naegleria fowleri?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naegleria fowleri, can travel up the nose to the brain, where it can eat brain tissue, causing an infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which can be fatal.
The amoeba lives in warm fresh water or swimming pools. Infections are considered to be rare with 31 infections reported from 2012 to 2021, according to the CDC.
- stiff neck
- loss of balance or hallucinations.
Those experiencing symptoms are advised to seek immediate medical attention.
How to avoid getting the brain-eating amoeba
Officials are asking residents to:
- Use only distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions.
- Don’t allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when showering or swimming.
- Don’t jump into or put your head under bathing water.
- Don’t allow children to play unsupervised with hoses are sprinklers to avoid them squirting water up their nose.
- Keep plastic or blow-up pools clean after every use.
- Keep swimming pools disinfected.
Contributing: Melissa Pérez-Carrillo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.