Dr. Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist, said the warning from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals follows the state's second death this year caused by Naegleria fowleri, the so-called brain-eating amoeba.
A neti pot, which looks like a genie's lamp or a teapot, is used to irrigate sinuses by pouring a solution into the nose.
In the latest case, a 51-year-old DeSoto Parish woman died recently after using tap water in a neti pot to irrigate her sinuses. Last June, a 20-year-old St. Bernard Parish man died under the same circumstances.
Naegleria fowleri infects people by entering the body through the nose.
"If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, for example, by using a neti pot, use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution," Ratard said in a statement. "Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose. It's also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry."
Naegleria fowleri infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes and rivers. In rare instances, however, infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources -- such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated tap water less than 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit -- enters the nose when people submerge their heads or when people irrigate their sinuses with devices such as a neti pot.
People cannot be infected with Naegleria fowleri by drinking water, Ratard stressed.