Questions mounting after brain-eating amoeba death in Charlotte County

Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

A family is left searching for answers after 41-year-old Scott Schmitz died in February.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding what happened.

On March 2, WINK News reported a person died from a brain-eating amoeba. The Department of Health in Charlotte County believes the person got sick using tap water in a Neti Pot.

Scott Schmitz. CREDIT: WINK News

WINK News was told Schmitz rapidly got sick after using a sinus-rinsing allergy treatment like Neti Pot.

On March 2, the Florida Department of Health confirmed somebody in Charlotte County died from a likely infection from a brain-eating amoeba and was investigating whether something like Neti Pot and tap water led to the death.

Charlotte County DOH confirming brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, death. CREDIT: CHARLOTTE COUNTY DOH

The family said they aren’t sure how their loved one died and want answers.

“All I know is that he told me his son died,” Schmitz’ neighbor, Jim Fish, said.

Fish told WINK News the Charlotte County neighborhood they shared is a place more likely lined with house numbers than tragedy.

“He talked about his youth. Only being 41 years old,” Fish said.

Schmitz’s family fears that Scott is the victim of a brain-eating amoeba. And while the Charlotte County Health Department confirmed such a death occurred in February, no other details were made public.

Fish told WINK News that in his conversations with Scott’s father, something interesting.

“He asked me if I was familiar with some flushing of the nostrils,” Fish said.

The Schmitz family believes Scott fell ill after using a sinus-flushing allergy method, like Neti Pot.

“It was mentioned with several things about the way he was dying. How he couldn’t move … or was moving out of control and had to be tied down,” Fish said.

Without a lot of answers, the Schmitz family is full of questions.

The timeline begins on February 23, four days after Scott died the Florida Department of Health confirmed one case of a rare brain-eating amoeba and specifically stated that it was possibly a result of “sinus rinse practices utilizing tap water.” Then, on March 2, after being pushed on the subject, the Department of Health confirmed with WINK News that someone in Charlotte County died from a brain-eating amoeba.

Scott’s family believes Scott was the one who died from the brain-eating amoeba. But the health department’s not answering their questions. They were so concerned for their neighbor’s safety after their sons’ death they asked Fish if he used the sinus flushing technique too.

“He asked me if I had did that … and I said I don’t even know what it is,” Fish said.

That is the precise uncertainty leaving Fish to worry for his safety.

It’s incredibly rare to get infected by a brain-eating amoeba. It’s off the charts to be infected by tap water ran through a water treatment facility.

In conjunction with the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Charlotte County Utilities said that starting on Wednesday, it will temporarily change the disinfection process for its water supply out of an abundance of caution.

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