‘Brain-eating’ amoeba found in Charlotte County

Naegleria fowleri has been discovered in Charlotte County
Naegleria fowleri has been discovered in Charlotte County(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 11:30 AM EST
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WWSB) - Health officials in Charlotte County say they have confirmed a case of a person infected with a rare amoeba that may have been caused after rinsing their sinuses with tap water.

The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County has confirmed a single case of infection with naegleria fowleri.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ameba travels up the nose to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue and, in rare situations, causes a devastating infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM. PAM is almost always fatal. Only about three people in the United States get infected each year.

The health department says people cannot be infected by drinking tap water.

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:

  • 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 health care 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:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Loss of balance
  • Hallucinations

For the latest information about the amoeba please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html.