Neti Pot Problems Linked to Brain-Eating Amoeba, Death

Following the deaths of at least two people from a brain-eating infection, Louisiana health officials are warning people not to use tap water in neti pots and to properly clean the sinus irrigating devices. 

The neti pot public health warning was issued after the deaths were attributed to an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which can develop into an infection that destroys the brain. Health officials discovered that both victims were irrigating their sinuses with neti pots using tap water.

According to state officials, the tap water likely contained Naegleri fowleri, which is harmless to drink, but can cause deadly brain infections if it enters the nose. Such infections are extremely rare. Most Naegleri fowleri infections occur when the amoeba enters the nose of swimmers in freshwater lakes and rivers that are contaminated.

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Neti pots are small devices used for nasal irrigation, in which the nasal cavity is washed to flush out excess mucus and debris in the nose or sinuses.

The Louisiana health department recommends that people not use tap water in neti pots unless it has been sterilized. Only sterile water or water made sterile by boiling first should be used in the pots, officials warn. After use the pots should be rinsed clean and left to air dry.

Naegleri fowleri cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which destroys brain tissue. In early stages it appears silimar to bacterial meningitis. Early symptoms can include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck, the state warns. But later the infection can cause confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations. Death occurs in less than two weeks.

There were only 32 cases of Naegleri fowleri infections reported in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010. Of those cases, 30 were attributed to people swimming in recreational water.

Photo courtesy of Aikhan from de.wikipedia.org via CC 3.0

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