Man Killed By Brain-Eating Amoeba After Consuming Tap Water

A man became infected with and died from a brain-eating amoeba after he used tap water to flush his sinuses with a neti pot.

By Trista Sobeck | Updated

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In the age-old debate, which hurts more; a brain-eating amoeba or a severe sinus headache?  It’s sometimes hard to choose. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sinus headache. Unfortunately, for one Florida man, it was the former.

Headaches are caused by many things in our everyday lives, and we will do everything we can to keep them at bay. Headaches are caused by dehydration, stress, overexertion, hormones, sinus infections, or well, being a human. We eat more flavonols (when we find out what they are), and we flush our noses with water. But, what if we’re causing our own pain?

According to NPR, a man recently died from a brain-eating amoeba after rinsing his sinuses through his nose with a neti pot. A neti pot is a small vessel that you can use–with distilled water and some salt –to rinse your sinuses by forcing water up your nostrils. It is a method of battling germs and ‘washing’ the sinus cavity in an effort to cure a cold or sinusitis

The man who died from the brain-eating amoeba used tap water to rinse his sinuses. The brain-eating amoeba lives in warm water like streams and lakes, as well as tap water. The amoeba, known as, Naegleria fowleri, can only cause problems if it enters the human body through the nose. Many types of amoebas like in still water–especially in the Southeastern part of the United States. Another more common amoeba is shigella

The disease of the amoeba Naelgeria fowleri is called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The symptoms progress rapidly ultimately and end in death. However, there have been four known survivors, with a fifth still fighting for his life since last year. 

The first signs of PAM usually appear five days after infection and include headache, temperature, nausea, and vomiting (though they can begin anywhere within one to 12 days). Neck stiffness, disorientation, seizures, hallucinations, and coma are possible later signs.

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid activities that involve water entering the nose, such as diving or jumping into untreated bodies of water. In addition, wearing nose clips when showering or washing your face with contaminated water can also be beneficial. Amoebas are single-cell organisms and have been around way before human life even began. 

Humans have always been fighting for survival against things like amoebas and other maladies that infect brains forever. In fact, scientists have discovered that people have been searching for brain treatments and doing brain surgery since the Bronze Age. 

When rinsing your sinuses, the CDC cautions people to use distilled water, water that has been boiled and then cooled, or water labeled NSF 53, which has been removed from contaminants. You can also prevent getting infected by paying special attention while swimming in warm water and trying to refrain from splashing. Contaminated water presents a problem when it enters the body through the nose, not the mouth.

If it’s not amoebas, it’s super germs, parasites, or pandemics that can kill us. A virus took down the world two years ago. We need to keep our eyes open and beware of where the next outbreak will occur. Will we be able to combat it? We don’t know.