Seattle woman dies from brain-eating amoebas after using nonsterile water in neti pot

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Doctors are warning people about the dangers of using nonsterile water in neti pots after it was determined that a 69-year-old Seattle woman died from brain-eating amoebas.

Earlier this year, an unnamed woman was admitted to the Swedish Medical Center after suffering a seizure. But what doctors initially thought was a brain tumor turned out to be rare amoebas that were attacking her brain. The woman died a month later, the Seattle Times reports.

“When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush,” neurosurgeon Charles Cobbs told the Seattle Times. “There were these amoeba all over the place just eating brain cells. We didn’t have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba.”

A study published by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases determined that the woman contracted the brain infection a year earlier by using a neti pot filled with nonsterile water to treat a sinus infection. She used tap water that had been filtered with a Brita Water Purifier. The report notes that it’s safest to use saline or sterile water.

The specific amoeba that killed the Seattle woman moves slowly, which is why it went undetected for a year.

While this type of brain infection is rare, doctors are urging people to use sterile water any time they use a neti pot. Some also predict that the number of infections will increase as climate change worsens.

In October, a 29-year-old man from New Jersey died from brain-eating amoebas. Upon further investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention subsequently decided to test the water at a Texas surf resort he visited before getting sick. 

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