The Louisiana Department of Heath and Hospitals (DHH) has confirmed that the brain-eating Naegleria fowleri amoeba has once again been found in the St. Bernard Parish water system. The amoeba was first discovered during testing following a 2013 incident where Naegleria infected and killed a four-year-old boy.
Seven sites were tested by officials. Two came back positive: a water treatment plant (among water that had yet to be treated) and a building where a leaking sampling station was found. Since Naegleria is naturally found in warm freshwater, it is currently believed that the amoeba entered the system from the leak via ground water.
As it had during the 2013 incident, the parish will be performing a 60-day “chlorine burn” to purge any and all traces of Naegleria from the water system. Since Naegleria cannot infect people who merely ingest it—the amoeba must enter through the nose—the tap water remains safe for drinking. Residents are advised to not go swimming or play with garden hoses, and to only use sterile water for nasal rinses during this period.
Naegleria is an amoeba that causes infection when it enters the body through the nose. Once inside, it travels to the brain and begins eating neurons. Naegleria can also trigger a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which results in the destruction of brain tissue.
Infections most commonly occur in children and teenagers since they are the most likely to play outside in the water. Only a small number of people are vulnerable to Naegleria, but those who become infected have a 95% fatality rate. There have been roughly 133 cases of Naegleria infection in the U.S. since 1962, with only three survivors.
So far, no one in St. Bernard Parish has been infected by this latest occurrence of the amoeba.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Bilven, K., “DHH Confirms Amoeba in St. Bernard Parish Water System,” WDSU.com, July 22, 2015; http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/dhh-confirms-amoeba-in-st-bernard-parish-water-system/34305876.
Davis, K., “DHH Reports Traces of Brain-eating Amoeba in St. Bernard Parish Water System,” WDSU.com, July 23, 2015;