​Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Texas Water System

Naegleria fowleri is responsible for the death of a 6-year-old boy in Lake Jackson, Texas, and environmental officials say the city will be fighting the pathogen for months

​Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Texas Water System

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Environmental officials in Texas are saying it may take months before the water system in Lake Jackson is free of a brain-eating amoeba that killed a 6-year-old boy in September.

The child’s death spurred Gov. Greg Abbott to declare a state of disaster in Brazoria County after water samples revealed the presence of Naegleria fowleri in the Lake Jackson water system.

“(It) can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, and was identified in three of 11 tests of the water supply, posing an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life,” wrote the governor in his declaration.

The three areas that tested positive were a downtown recreational splash pad, a fire hydrant and a garden hose bib at the boy’s home, according to this Twitter post by a Houston-area reporter:

While officials believe it’s an isolated case and that surrounding communities’ water systems are unaffected, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker says the path forward for the citizens of Lake Jackson won’t be short.

“We have to get through the boil water first, which could take two to three weeks, after that we have to get chlorine levels to a state that can burn the entire system, scour the system, and kill the amoebas,” he said in a press conference. “That could take up to an additional 60 days.”

Once that’s complete, the Centers for Disease Control will test the city’s water to ensure its safety. In the meantime, residents have been advised to boil water being used for consumption and to take precautions not to allow tap water to get in their noses during showers or face washing, as the sinus is the only route Naegleria fowleri has for infection. Naegleria fowleri is a shapeshifting amoeboflagellate excavate that can be pathogenic and cause a very rare, but sudden, severe and fatal brain infection called naegleriasis. It is typically found in bodies of warm, stagnant freshwater.


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