Finally, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center, where the woman was being treated, opened her skull to examine her brain and found that it was infected with amoebae.
The contaminated water went up the woman's nose "toward [the] olfactory nerves in the upper part of her nasal cavity", The Seattle Times reported, which ultimately caused the infection which first appeared as a red sore on her nose.
Earlier this year, an unnamed woman was admitted to the Swedish Medical Center after suffering a seizure. At first doctors thought the woman had a tumor, as she had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer.
A Seattle woman rinsed her sinuses with tap water. However, during surgery, they discovered it was something much more unusual, according to KCPQ. He removed it and sent a sample to a pathologist at Johns Hopkins for a second opinion.
The woman's condition quickly deteriorated. "We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue we could see it was the amoeba", Cobbs added.
Brain-eating amoeba infections usually occur when water is forced up the nose, according to the CDC, particularly "when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers". Dr. Cobb says she most likely became infected by the amoeba after treating a common sinus problem with tap water.
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She used the device over the span of a year.
A woman who was told by her doctor to rinse her sinuses twice daily to clear up a chronic sinus infection died from a brain-eating amoeba.
"There have been 34 reported infections in the U.S.in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, despite millions of recreational water exposures each year", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Even though such infections are very rare, there were three similar US cases from 2008 to 2017. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms - such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas - that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them.
"If you do use a neti pot, for instance, you should be very aware that it has to be absolute sterile water or sterile saline", said Dr. Cobbs. Researchers believe that she contracted the amoeba while using the neti pot because she used filtered tap water rather than saline or sterile water, the latter of which is recommended. That said, the woman's case was rare; there were only three similar cases in the USA from 2008 to 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This is so rare there have only been like 200 cases ever".