Southerners have been warned about the dangers of the deadly amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, which live in warm lakes and ponds, but finding the amoeba lurking in a home's plumbing system raises new concerns.
According to a report from the Associated Press, a Louisiana man died from the bug after using a neti pot, a small, plastic teapot-like device commonly used to clean sinuses andnasal passages to relieveallergies.
When the Naegleria fowleri gets up the nose, it burrows into the skull and destroys brain tissue. It's almost always fatal.
This month, the rare infection killed 16-year-old Courtney Nash, a Brevard County resident, who fell ill after swimming in the St. John's River, and a 9-year-old Virginia boy, who died after getting dunked in a lake at a fishing day camp.
However, health officials have traced the June death of a man in his 20s to his home's tap water, which he used to fill his neti pot. Health officials later found the amoeba in the home's plumbing.
The problem was confined to the house, and did not show up in city water samples, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist.
After the finding, Ratard recommended that households use only sterile, distilled or boiled water in neti pots.
Scientists at the University of Florida are working to better understand where and how the amoeba flourish, and potentially save more lives.
About 120 U.S. cases of deadly amoeba infections have been reported since the amoeba was identified in the early 1960s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of Florida's 31 confirmed cases, about half have occurred in Orange County, home to nearly 500 lakes.
Dr. Amanda Rice, of the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute, is collaborating with the CDC and the Florida Department of Health to learn more about the amoeba's habitat, and then educate doctors about the signs of primary amebic meningoencephalitis — the brain infection the amoeba causes — so they test for it sooner and treat it quicker.
Although Naegleria fowleri are typically found in Southern states — with Florida and Texas reporting the most of cases — last summer a Minnesota girl died of the amebic infection, marking the first case in a Northern state.
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