'Do Not Put Head Under Bathing Water': Florida Dept. of Health Cautions Amid Recent 'Brain-Eating' Amoeba Death

Uncovering Florida

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Recently, news spread that a man died in Charlotte County, Florida, as a result of contracting Naegleria fowleri, a brain-tissue destroying single-celled organism also commonly known as a "brain-eating" amoeba, likely after using contaminated tap water for a sinus rinse.

"The Florida Department of Health (DOH-Charlotte) in Charlotte County has confirmed one Florida case recently infected with Naegleria fowleri, possibly as a result of sinus rinse practices utilizing tap water," a press release from the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte shared in late February confirmed.

According to information provided by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, between zero and five cases of Naegleria fowleri were diagnosed annually from 2012 to 2021, only two of which were infected after rinsing sinuses using contaminated tap water. The majority of cases are linked to swimming in freshwater in southern states like Texas and Florida.

"Infection with Naegleria fowleri is EXTREMELY RARE and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose. You CANNOT be infected by drinking tap water," the Florida Department of Health's Twitter post from earlier this month reads in part with a link to back to the original February press release that includes guidelines for avoiding infection.

Their issued guidelines for residents in Charlotte County are as following:

  • When making sinus rinse solutions, use only distilled or sterile water. Tap water should be boiled for at least 1 minute and cooled before sinus rinsing.
  • DO NOT allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face, or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.
  • DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small hard plastic/blow-up pools) – walk or lower yourself in.
  • DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, as they may accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water going up the nose.
  • Keep small hard plastic or blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing, and allowing them to dry after each use.
  • Keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use.

The press release furthered that the Department and local healthcare facilities continue to monitor indications of additional infections.

You can read more about Naegleria fowleri on the Florida Health Department website here.

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