Florida Man Killed by Rare, Brain-Eating Organism In Tap Water

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Naegleria fowleri life cycle has three phases: 1) the amoeba phase called a trophozoite, 2) a flagellated phase and 3) an environmentally resistant cyst phase. The only phase that causes infection is the amoeba phase. During swimming the amoeba enters the nose and migrates along the olfactory nerve to the brain. Once in the brain the amoeba multiplies and causes an infection that can be fatel. Image: The International Code Council, Inc., 

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL – A Florida man is dead after coming into contact with a rare, brain-eating amoeba that he likely was exposed to by using tap water to rinse out his sinuses, according to state health officials. 

The Charlotte County resident, whose identity has not been revealed, died last week from a microscopic amoeba called naegleria fowleri, said Florida Department of Health press secretary Jae Williams, who did not reveal that exact date on which he passed away. 

Previously, Charlotte County health officials had announced on February 23 that a resident had been infected by the rare brain-eating amoeba; the health department noted that it was monitoring health care facilities throughout the state in order to ascertain if there had been any additional infections. 

“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 link and make any necessary corrective actions,” a health department spokesperson said at the time. 


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Williams said that the individual who died had possibly been exposed to the amoeba by rinsing his sinuses with tap water. 

“Naegleria fowleri is oddly specific and relatively very difficult to contract because it has to go directly through the nose into the sinus and enter the brain,” Williams said.  “It’s common in freshwater, particular standing freshwater like that baking in the sun.” 

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), naegleria fowleri can travel up the nose to the brain where it can eat brain tissue, causing a potentially fatal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. 

Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, stiff neck, seizures, loss of balance or hallucinations. 

Those experiencing symptoms are advised to seek immediate medical attention, health officials say. 

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