Brain-Eating Amoeba Detected In Two Water Systems In Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has confirmed that two of the state’s water system is positive for Naegleria fowleri, a naturally occurring freshwater amoeba. As such, the authorities are advising residents to take precautionary measures to reduce the risks of infection.


Water Systems Positive For Naegleria Fowleri

On June 29, LDH announced that two water systems undergoing routine drinking water testing results turned out positive for Naegleria fowleri. The Terrebonne Parish’s Schriever Water system and the Ouachita Parish’s North Monroe Water System both tested positive for the amoeba.

Both the water systems as well as local officials have been officially notified of the findings. Further, the water systems have been requested to convert to the free chlorine disinfection method for 60 days to ensure that the bacteria will be eliminated completely.

LDH has been routinely testing for the presence of the bacteria since 2015, and has collected a total of 540 samples since 2013.

Because of the findings, the Department warns families that although the tap water is safe for drinking, they are urged to avoid getting the water into their noses as it can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a brain infection that causes serious damage to the brain tissue.

Cases Of Naegleria Fowleri Infection

This is not the first time that LDH has found traces of the amoeba in their water systems. The Terrebonne Parish, Ascension, and St. Bernard water systems also tested positive for the bacteria.

Several deaths resulting from Naegleria Fowleri infections were also recorded as the U.S. National Whitewater Center was prompted to suspend whitewater activities after 18-year-old Lauren Seitz from Ohio got infected with the bacteria.

Eleven-year-old South Carolina girl Hannah Katherine Collins also passed away after getting the infection from a river, while young track star Michael Riley succumbed to the infection that he got after swimming in the lake.

The fatality rate for Naegleria fowleri is 97 percent, and only four people have been known to survive from the infection between 1962 and 2016.

Precautionary Measures

First of all, it is important to note that Naegleria fowleri cannot be contracted by drinking infected water and neither can it be passed from one person to another. What authorities are concerned about is when contaminated water enters the nose, as it is the primary means of infection.

As such, authorities are urging the public to be very careful when it comes to swimming in fresh water, or even just washing your face with contaminated water. This is especially important to remember because from the nose, the amoeba may travel up to the brain where it is able to destroy brain tissue.

Supervising children during baths and while playing with sprinklers or hoses is advised, and walking or lowering yourself into the water is also wise instead of jumping into bath water or swimming pools. Allowing the water to run for five minutes to wash out the pipes before bathing is also advised, and sinus rinse solutions must only be done using boiled and cooled, sterile, or distilled water.

Naegleria fowleri is a rare infection, and its symptoms of vomiting, headache, fever, and stiff neck could also be related to other bacterial infections. However, medical care should be sought after upon any sudden onset of these symptoms.



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