Unanswered question over brain-eating amoeba

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Many unanswered questions remain after a brain-eating amoeba likely killed someone in Charlotte County, possibly by rinsing their sinuses with tap water.

Nevertheless, people want to know more about what happened other than someone dying from a brain-eating amoeba.

WINK News was in Charlotte County for nine hours on Monday, reaching out to many people hoping to get answers. Answers for the Southwest Florida community and answers for Scott Schmitz. Schmitz, 41, died, and his family fears he’s the one who died from the brain-eating amoeba.

Scott Schmitz. CREDIT: WINK News

“He asked me if I was familiar with the flushing of the nostrils,” Jim Fish, Schmitz’s neighbor, said.

In the days following Schmitz’ death, Fish told his family to warn neighbors in the Englewood community that Schmitz used a sinus-rinsing allergy treatment, then got sick and died.

The health department in Charlotte County confirmed the death was from a brain-eating amoeba.

WINK News went to a Charlotte County commissioners meeting and asked Bill Truex, the commission chair representing the district where Schmitz lived. Truex declined the request for an interview.

Brain-eating amoebae must live in water that’s at least 75 to 80 degrees. So initially, experts at the FGCU Water School theorized the killer amoeba had to come from well water. But where Schmitz lived and died in Englewood, there is no well water.

Interestingly, on Wednesday, Charlotte County Utilities, in conjunction with Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, will change the disinfection process of its water. But why are they doing that?

All Peace River will tell WINK News it’s being done out of an abundance of caution. But the chlorine burn they’re going to use quickly kills brain-eating amoebae.

As for Fish, he said he had never heard of a brain-eating amoeba until Schmit’s father told him his son was likely killed by one. Since then, there has been a slight shift in his behavior toward the water.

“We don’t use the water unless we’re making coffee. We buy bottled water,” Fish said.

To be absolutely clear, you cannot get infected with a brain-eating amoeba by drinking the water. But if you rinse your sinuses, you might want to consider boiling the water first.

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