Health officials in Florida are warning residents after a case of a rare, brain-destroying amoeba was confirmed.
In a press release issued Friday, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) said one person in Hillsborough County contracted Naegleria fowleri — a microscopic, single-celled amoeba that “destroys the brain tissue and is usually fatal.”
Hillsborough County is located in west central Florida.
According to the DOH, the amoeba is usually found in warm, fresh water such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals in the United States, but is more common in the southern states.
“The peak season for this amoeba is July, August and September,” the release reads.
The DOH said infections occur when the amoeba enters the body through the nose.
“Adverse health effects on humans can be prevented by avoiding nasal contact with the waters, since the amoeba enters through nasal passages,” the release reads.
According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, humans cannot be infected by swallowing water contaminated with the amoeba.
Symptoms of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) — the disease caused by the amoeba — include severe frontal headache, fever, nausea, seizures, hallucinations and coma.
The Florida DOH has recommended people avoid bodies of warm, fresh water around hot springs or power plants.
“Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels,” the DOH recommends.
The DOH said those who do take part in water-related activities should hold their nose or use nose clips and should “avoid digging up sediment.”
The DOH warned that exposure to the amoeba can also occur when using a neti pot or conducting religious rituals using tap water.
“Use only boiled and cooled, distilled or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions,” the DOH said.
According to the Florida DOH, there were 143 cases of PAM reported between 1962 and 2016.
The amoeba has caused infections in 19 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Health officials said of those cases, only four people survived.