Louisiana officials have cautioned residents to be careful after a deadly brain-eating amoeba was found in a parish water supply.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced that the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in the water system of St. John the Baptist Parish.
The microscopic amoeba can be deadly if containminated water travels through the nose to the brain. The microscopic pathogen can cause a deadly form of meningitis that or a swelling of the brain and surrounding tissues.
The amoeba cannot be contracted from drinking contaminated water, according to officials.
St. John the Baptist’s water system serves 12,577 people in three towns.
While the source of the contamination was not found, officials found the water supply did not have the required level of chlorine disinfectant and was vulneralbe to contamination from Naeglaria fowleri.
There have been no reports of infections from the amoeba in the area.
To kill the dangerous pathogens the department will flush the system with extra high levels of the cholrine for 60 days to kill any lingering amoebas in the system. The water will still be safe to drink.
While the amoeba is extremely rare, the pathogen was responsible for at least three deaths in Louisiana parishes since 2011. Last year a four-year-old boy from St. Bernard Parish was killed after contracting the infection from using a slip-in-slide.
This summer a nine-year-old girl from Kansas died after being infected with the amoeba.
Louisiana State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry:
“Families can take simple steps to protect themselves form exposure to this ameoba, the most important being to avoid allowing water to go up your nose while bathing or swimming in a pool. It is important to remember that the water is safe to drink; the ameba cannot infect an individual through the stomach.”
The symptoms of an infection from Naeglaria fowleri including headache, fever and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As the disease progresses, infected people can have seizures, altered mental status, halucinnations and slip into a coma.
In the U.S. between 1963 and last year, just three people out of 132 managed to survive the infection, according to the CDC.
Source: ABC News