The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is warning people against using tap water in neti pots due to a serious health risk, reports MSNBC. Nasal-irrigation devices, called neti pots, are implicated in two deaths in Louisiana caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which rapidly destroys brain tissue. Health officials believe that the two recent victims filled neti pots with tap water contaminated with the parasite to flush out their sinus cavities, and the amoeba moved from their sinuses into their brains. The cases are still under investigation.
Municipal water is treated to kill microorganisms, like Naegleria fowleri, but it is not 100 percent effective. Therefore, neti pot manufacturers have always asked users to fill the devices with distilled or sterilized water—not tap water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amoeba typically infects brain tissue by entering the nose while the victim is swimming or diving in warm freshwater places. The infection caused by the parasite, called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), is very difficult to diagnose and cure, especially because it kills within 1 to 12 days. Its symptoms are headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations.
“Fortunately, confirmed deaths from N. fowleri are quite rare,” says Diane Miskowski, MPH, Business Development Manager at EMSL Analytical, Inc., a leading environmental testing laboratory. “However, the frequency of infections may be higher due to past testing limitations. With the advent of PCR testing technologies over the past several years, laboratories such as EMSL can now test for N. fowleri from environmental samples using powerful DNA amplification methodologies,” she continued.
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental, food, and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations, as well as state and federal regulating bodies.