A Florida resident died after being infected by a rare amoeba last week, health officials say.
Charlotte County health officials said the unidentified male patient likely contracted Nagleria fowleri after rinsing out his sinuses with tap water, local Florida news outlet WFTX reported. Eric Milbrandt, director of the marine laboratory at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the organism can only enter the body through the nose.
“It’s found in hot springs, it’s found in warm water, lakes, and it can also be found in hot water tanks and, in some very rare cases, in tap water,” Milbrandt told WFTX.
The CDC said Nagleria fowleri infections are rare. Between zero and five cases were diagnosed each year in the U.S. from 2012 to 2021.
“This is the first reported case of Naegleria fowleri infection in the United States this year, and the first ever reported in winter months in the United States,” the CDC told WFTX.
Nagleria fowleri causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a condition that destroys brain tissue and causes swelling. The death rate is high — only four people have survived out of 154 cases between 1962 and 2021.
“The first symptoms of PAM usually start about 5 days after infection, but they can start within 1 to 12 days. Symptoms may include headache, fever, nausea, or vomiting,” the CDC said. “Later symptoms can include stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, seizures, hallucinations, and coma. After symptoms start, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about 5 days.”
You can learn more about Nagleria fowleri infection on the CDC website.