A person in Florida has been infected with a deadly single-celled organism.
The “brain-eating” amoeba destroys brain tissue and causes death in 97% of cases.
It’s caught through the nose, not by drinking contaminated water.
A person in Florida has been infected with a “brain-eating” amoeba, according to officials.
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County in the southwest of the state said that the person likely got infected when they rinsed their sinuses with tap water.
It said tap water in the area is still safe to drink as the amoeba — a single-celled organism — Naegleria fowleri is rare and can only infect humans through the nose.
DOH-Charlotte said it is investigating how the infection occurred and is working with the local public utilities to make any necessary changes.
Early symptoms of a brain-eating amoeba include fever, nausea, and vomiting
It told local residents to only use distilled or sterile water when making sinus rinse solutions, and to seek immediate medical assistance if they experience symptoms of a brain-eating amoeba such as: headaches, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, a stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance, or hallucinations.
DOH-Charlotte said to not let water enter the nose when swimming, bathing, showering, or washing the face.
Naegleria fowleri enters the body through the nose, usually during diving or swimming
Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, with a a total of 31 infections reported in the US between 2012 to 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Infections can happen when water containing the amoeba enters through the nose and travels up into the brain. This can happen when swimming or diving in fresh water lakes or when tap water containing the Naegleria fowleri enters the nose, such as when sinuses are cleaned.
The infection cannot be spread from person to person.
Naegleria fowleri infections cause what is known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, an infection that destroys brain tissue, which is why it’s called “brain-eating.” The first symptoms of PAM happen one to 12 days after infection, and include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting.
Naegleria fowleri infections are deadly in 97% of cases, the CDC said.
As PAM is rare and symptoms progress quickly, it can be hard to treat, the CDC said. Currently, infections are treated with a combination of drugs that have previously been successful on treating patients who survived.
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