Florida Health Department Issues Urgent Warning After Man Reportedly Dies Of Suspected Brain-Eating Amoeba

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
Font Size:

Florida Department of Health (DOH) officials sent an urgent warning to residents in south Florida after a brain-eating amoeba reportedly took the life of a Charlotte County man.

The man died after using Naegleria fowleri-contaminated water to rinse his sinuses, Fox4 reported March 2. The DOH in Charlotte County issued an updated press release following the incident, urging residents to stop using tap water in their nasal rinses and avoid getting any tap water up their noses.

The press release indicated the contaminated tap water is not dangerous to drink, but that using it to rinse the sinuses exposes the nasal passages to the amoeba. The DOH also emphasized becoming infected with Naegleria fowleri is “extremely rare” in a Tweet posted March 3.

“Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba. In rare situations, the amoeba can cause an infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM),” according to the release. “Infection with Naegleria fowleri is RARE and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose. You CANNOT be infected by drinking tap water.”

DOH officials said Charlotte County residents should only use distilled or sterile water for their sinus rinse solutions, emphasizing the practice of boiling the tap water for at least one minute to kill potential contamination.

“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,” according to the Florida DOH. “DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small plastic or inflatable pools) – walk or lower yourself in.”

Florida health officials also cautioned Charlotte County residents to not let their children play with hoses or sprinklers unsupervised due to the increased risk of accidentally spraying water up their noses. The department recommended children avoid other water activities, including slip-n-slides, unless using nasal clips, according to the press release. (RELATED: Company Recalls 145,000 Cans Of Baby Formula Over Potentially Dangerous Bacteria)

“It’s scary to hear that,” Claudia, a resident, told Fox4 about the news concerning the contaminated tap water. She said she hadn’t heard much about the brain-eating amoeba, but that her family is now reconsidering future recreational plans.

“We were actually thinking about going to the water park in North Port. So now I’m like thinking about it before I do anything like that now,” she told the outlet.