Person infected by brain-eating amoeba in Charlotte County dies

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The person who likely got a brain-eating amoeba through tap water in Charlotte County is dead. The Florida Health Department confirms this is the person we told you about last week.

While the death is sad, health officials say we shouldn’t be scared. Getting infected by a brain-eating amoeba is incredibly rare. Getting one from tap water in winter has never happened before.

Remember, you can’t get a brain-eating amoeba by drinking water. It must enter through the nose.

Millions of people use a sinus rinse device every day. The fear in Charlotte County is that one person had died because of this simple act.

The Florida Department of Health has confirmed that someone died of a brain-eating amoeba. Investigators believe the killer organism got into the victim’s brain through tap water during a sinus rinse.

“It has to get up to the brain. So if it goes into your mouth, it goes down, the digestive system destroys [it], they’re gone, not an issue. But if it goes into the nose, it’s going up a mucus cavity,” said FGCU Water School professor Barry Rosen.

Rosen said there was no chance the brain-eating amoeba got into the tap water after going through a water treatment plant. So if tap water is to blame, the infected water must have come from a well.

People in Charlotte County, like Tim Ritchie, now worry about what’s in his water. He said he’s been fighting against the dangers in lakes and canals for years.

“I have a Berkey water filter over there. We put all our water through that. I tried to boil most all my water, but even boiling it, you don’t get rid of the heavy metals,” said Ritchie.

It’s rare for someone to be infected with a brain-eating amoeba. It’s even rarer to survive. Only four people survived out of the 154 confirmed cases between 1962 and 2021.

“It’s so rare that it would be hard for me to say, ‘yeah, you should be concerned about it.’ It is way too rare for that to happen. I’d say if you are in a lake, river pond, warm water body, much greater chance of being exposed,” Rosen said.

WINK News has peppered the health department and CDC with questions about the victim and the status of the investigation into how that person got infected. They have not provided any of that information.

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