World

Florida man dies from brain-eating amoeba – possibly after rinsing his nose with tap water

A US man has died from a brain-eating amoeba – possibly after rinsing his nose with tap water, health officials have said.

The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County confirmed the death in a news release on 23 February but gave no details about the victim.

The naegleria fowleri infection was thought to be due to sinus rinsing but the department said it was still investigating.

Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism found in soil and fresh water worldwide.

The amoeba enters the body through the nose then travels to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue and causes a devastating infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is almost always fatal.

Most infections come from swimming in warm lakes or rivers in the summer, as the organism likes heat and grows best in high temperatures.

Symptoms include headaches, fever, nausea, loss of balance, disorientation, seizures and a stiff neck.

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The department said people cannot be infected by drinking tap water and recommended that people use distilled or sterile water for sinus rinses.

Tap water should be boiled for at least one minute and cooled before sinus rinsing, they added.

Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with just three confirmed cases in the US last year, according to official figures.

The cases occurred after exposure to fresh water in Iowa, Arizona and Nebraska.

There were three cases each in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

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