A Floridian man allegedly contracted a brain-eating amoeba while rinsing his sinuses with tap water. The Floridan Department of Health in Charlotte County has been investigating the cause of the Naegleria fowleri infection in one of their patients whose name is undisclosed.
Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism and a free-living amoeba commonly found in warm fresh lakes, rivers, hot springs, and soil. N. fowleri infection can occur when people swim or dive in open water bodies. If the water gets into their nose the amoeba can travel up to the nasal canal and enter the brain. It has been responsible for destroying brain tissues causing a devastating fatal infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The infection can also happen if people use contaminated tap water to cleanse their noses.
N. fowleri thrives in less chlorinated pools.
However, infections are very rare and can initiate only if contaminated water enters the body through the sinuses. According to the statement by the US Department of Health, “You cannot be infected by drinking tap water.” They further instructed that people should boil or use either distilled or sterile water while cleansing sinuses. They said, “Tap water should be boiled for at least 1 minute and cooled before sinus rinsing.”
According to a report by CDC, last year there were at least three confirmed cases of N. fowleri infections that occurred after exposure to fresh water in Nebraska, Arizona, and Iowa. In the Iowa case, the person got infected after swimming in the Lake of Three Fire in Missouri. The lake is now closed.
The symptoms associated with the infection include headaches, fever, nausea, loss of balance or disorientation, seizures, and a stiff neck. The progression of the disease is quick after its initial infection and the patient may die within 18 days or less if untreated.