Brain-eating amoeba: What do we know about the rare, deadly infection?
A Florida resident has died from a rare, brain-eating amoeba, US officials say.
Health experts from Charlotte County, in southwest Florida, said the victim may have contracted it after she flushed her sinuses with tap water.
An amoeba called Naegleria fowleri infects the brain, which it enters through the nose. Officials say drinking water that may contain this type of amoeba is not dangerous.
Infection of the brain with this type of amoeba is usually fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On February 23, the Florida Department of Health said the patient may have been infected “due to habitual washing” using tap water. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the state health agency confirmed that the patient had died.
Guy Williams added that officials from several government health agencies “continue to investigate how the infection occurred.”
And Williams pointed out that officials are working with local government agencies to identify the possible causes of infection with this deadly type of amoeba, in order to take any corrective measures they deem necessary.
Amoebas usually live in warm freshwater environments such as pools, lakes and ponds.
The amoeba can cause serious injury if it finds its way to the brain through the nostrils, but it is not dangerous if it enters the human body through the mouth, because stomach acids kill it.
If the amoeba reaches the brain, it infects its host with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.
Symptoms of this disease include: headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, distraction, stiff neck, loss of balance, seizures and/or delirium.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this disease affects about three people in the United States each year, and infection is usually fatal.
Between 1962 and 2021, 154 people were infected with this disease in the United States, of whom only four survived.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that infection with this disease during the winter months is extremely rare.
Experts advise not to wash the nostrils with untreated water in order to avoid infection with this disease.
It is recommended to use sterile or distilled water. Tap water can also be used, provided that it is boiled for at least a minute and then cooled before use.
It is also advised not to snorkel under water in swimming pools or while taking a shower.