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Florida resident dies of brain-eating amoeba, used tap water to clean sinuses

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Characteristics associated with a case of primary amebic meningoencephalitis due to Naegleria fowleri parasites (CDC)

A Florida resident has died of a rare infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba after using unboiled tap water to clean their sinuses, local and federal officials say.

The Florida Health Department said the case involves a resident of Charlotte County but specific details were not immediately released. The CDC said the patient died on Monday.

The resident, whose identity has not been made public, is believed to have contracted Naegleria Fowleri after using unboiled tap water to rinse their sinuses daily, according to the 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,” the health department said.

Naegleria Fowleri can infect people when water containing the single-celled organism enters the body through the nose, usually while swimming or diving in ponds, lakes or rivers. In rare cases it can also be found in pipes connected to tap water.

“When water contaminated with Naegleria is sniffed up the nose, the ameba can travel to the brain,” according to the CDC website. “This causes the disease Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue and usually results in death.”

Symptoms usually occur between 1 and 12 days after infection and may include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may progress to a stiff neck, confusion, seizures and other neurological symptoms.

An infection with the brain-eating amoeba is nearly always fatal, killing 153 out of 157 patients since the early 1960s. Most cases were found in southern U.S. states, especially Texas (39) and Florida (38).

Although Naegleria Fowleri is a heat-loving ameba and is usually found in warm freshwater environments, recent infections have also been found in northern U.S. states as cooler regions have become warmer and drier.

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