Florida man dies from brain eating amoeba after using tap water for sinus rinse

A Florida man who contracted a rare brain-eating amoeba last week after using tap water with a nasal rinser has died, officials in Charlotte County announced on Thursday.

State health experts reported last week that an unnamed individual was infected with Naegleria fowleri, a rare amoeba which can be found in soil and warm fresh water.

The amoeba can’t be caught through drinking tap water, but, in rare instances, can infect the brain via water passing through the nose.

“Because that is the pathway for Naegleria to work its way into the cerebral spinal fluid in the brain, what ends up happening is the infection overwhelms the body, and … unfortunately, it’s highly dangerous and fatal,” Dr Joe Pepe said, administrator at the Charlotte County Health Department, told NBC-2.

Officials said they were still investigating the cause of the death, but that the individual had used a neti pot sinus rinse with tap water.

“Infection with Naegleria fowleri is RARE and can only happen when water contaminated with amoebae enters the body through the nose,” the Florida Department of Health said in a release last week about the case. “You CANNOT be infected by drinking tap water.”

The FDH urged citizens to properly sterilise water used in sinus rinses, and for people to avoid inhaling fresh water or putting their head below the waterline while bathing or swimming.

According to the CDC, infections with the amoeba are rare, with about three infections a year, though they are often fatal.

Last year, three infections occurred, including a child in Nebraska who died after swimming in the Elkhorn River in August.