Water-borne amoeba blamed for three deaths
BATON ROUGE - Health officials are telling the public there's little risk from a water-borne amoeba that's been blamed for three recent deaths, including a southeast Louisiana man.
The organism, naegleria fowleri, gets into the brain through the nasal cavity, usually from someone swimming and getting water up their nose. That's what the CDC says happened recently to a 9-year-old in Virginia and a 16-year-old in Florida.
However, Louisiana health officials said death this past June was not from swimming: it came from using a neti-pot, or nasal irrigation system. They believe the man, who was in his twenties, used untreated fresh water to flush his sinuses which allowed the amoeba to get into his nasal cavity.
Pharmacist Bill Burnett of Baton Rouge said people should only use sterilized or distilled water if they use a neti-pot, and keep it clean.
"The occurrence of this is very, very rare," Burnett said. "Keep your neti pot fairly clean, you can use it with boiling water, or just a vinegar solution."
Investigators believe the amoeba was localized to the victim's home's water supply, and did not pose a hazard to any other local water supply.
The CDC says fewer than a dozen people contract the amoeba and die each year in the U. S., and recommends people avoid warm, untreated water especially when levels are low. They also recommend holding your nose or using nose clips when swimming in fresh water.
For more information about this amoeba, visit the Department of Health and Hospital's website.