Once again, a potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba has been detected in Louisiana’s water system – but officials still insists tap water is safe to drink.
The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, was found in the Terrebonne Parish water system, health officials said on Thursday, almost exactly a year after they were forced to make the same announcement.
If ingested, the amoeba would cause a brain infection that leads to the destruction of tissue. In its early stages, symptoms may be similar to bacterial meningitis.
The organism does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be deadly if forced up the nose.
The CDC says residents who use the water system should not let water go up their nose or to allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers.
Louisiana officials found a potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba in its water system. Naegleria fowleri (pictured) causes a brain infection that leads to the destruction of tissue
The Naegleria fowleri bug was found in Terrebonne Parish, in southern Louisiana (pictured)
WHAT IS A BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA?
Naegleria fowleri is commonly referred to as the ‘brain-eating amoeba’ as it can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).
But the infection is very rare, and according to the CDC, there have been about 35 cases reported in the U.S. in the last decade.
The single-celled organism is commonly found in warm freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, and hot springs, as well as in soil.
It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM, which is usually fatal.
Infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers.
In very rare instances, Naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose.
You cannot get infected from swallowing water contaminated with Naegleria.
An independent review of the samples confirmed on Thursday that the amoeba had been found in the Pointe-aux-Chenes area.
The health department asked the water system to convert its current disinfection method to the free chlorine method for 60 days to ensure that any remaining amoeba is eliminated.
A chlorine burn involves boosting chlorine levels to kill the amoeba and bio-film, which can provide a place for the amoeba to live.
But residents say they are avoiding all water – chlorinated or not – to stay safe.
‘It kinda freaks me out because this is my home, I can’t do what I usually do,’ resident Lindsey Dupre told WWL-TV.
‘I want to know I’m secure rather than freak out over an amoeba.’
The state has tested for the amoeba, which occurs naturally in freshwater, since 2015.
The department samples public drinking water systems each summer when temperatures rise, and has collected 540 samples since 2013, the department said in a news release.
The CDC also said people should not put their heads under bath water.
The agency noted only 35 cases have been reported in the past decade, although nearly all of them fatal.
Residents should run bath and shower taps and hoses for five minutes before using them to flush out the pipes, especially the first time after the water utility raises the disinfectant level.
Residents should continue the precautions until testing no longer confirms the presence of the amoeba.
The water system will notify residents when that occurs.