CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Florida – 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.
Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic single-celled living amoeba. DOH says that infection with Naegleria fowleri is RARE and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose.
Florida Department of Health officials emphasized that someone cannot be infected by drinking tap water.
In rare situations, the amoeba can cause an infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
Tap water isn’t safe for use as a nasal rinse because it’s not adequately filtered or treated. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms — such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas — that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them. But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections.
They can even be fatal in some rare cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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 links and make any necessary corrective actions.
Residents in Charlotte County should follow the instructions below:
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 Department is working with healthcare facilities to monitor any indications of additional infections. If you experience any of these symptoms after swimming in warm lakes or rivers, or after a nasal water exposure such as a sinus rinse, seek medical assistance immediately:
Loss of balance