Two People Die From Brain Eating Amoebas After Using Neti Pots

Posted on December 16, 2011

Ameboflagellate trophozoite of n. fowleri

Time reports that two people have died from Naegleria fowleri, a brain eating amoeba, after using neti pots. The people who died used tap water with the neti pots to irrigate their sinuses. The people obviously were unaware that there are Naegleria fowleri living in the tap water in Louisiana. Amoebas living in the tap water is very disturbing.

The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals issued a warning to residents about proper neti pot use. Louisiana State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard says Louisiana tap water is safe to drink but not safe for irrigating your sinuses.

Ratard says, "If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, for example, by using a neti pot, use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose."

Most infections from Naegleria fowleri (which are usually fatal) occur when people go swimming and diving in warm fresh water lakes. The infections are very rare. There were only 32 cases in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010. The CDC says the amoeba usually causes death within 1 to 12 days:

Initial symptoms of PAM start 1 to 7 days after infection. The initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within 1 to 12 days.
There is no known effective treatment. The CDC does state that "you cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking contaminated water."

Photo: Ameboflagellate trophozoite of N. fowleri/DPDx/CDC

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