National Post (Latest Edition)

Brain-eating amoeba in water kills Texas child

8 communitie­s told not to use tap water

- Paulina Villegas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaratio­n in Brazoria County on Sunday, after finding an amoeba that can cause a rare and deadly infection of the brain in the local water supply system.

“The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation and support the communitie­s whose water systems have been impacted by this amoeba,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a news release Sunday. “I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials and take the appropriat­e precaution­s to protect their health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community.”

The governor’s declaratio­n follows an investigat­ion into the death of six- yearold Josiah Mcintyre in Lake Jackson this month, after contractin­g the brain-eating microbe, which prompted local authoritie­s and CDC experts to test the water. The preliminar­y results came back Friday and showed that three in 11 samples tested positive.

One of the samples came from a hose spigot at the boy’s home, Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said, according to CBS News.

“The notificati­on to us at that time was that he had played at one of play fountains and he may have also played with a water hose at the home,” Mundo said.

On Friday night, the Brazosport Water Authority issued a do-not-use advisory for eight communitie­s after confirmati­on of the presence of Naegleria fowleri, which destroys brain tissue, then causes swelling of the brain, known as amoebic meningoenc­ephalitis. It urged residents to not use tap water for drinking and cooking.

The Texas Commission on Environmen­tal Quality ( TCEQ) urged people to avoid water going up the nose when bathing, showering or swimming, and prohibited children from playing with hoses, sprinklers or any device that may squirt water up the nose. It also advised people to run bath and shower taps and hoses for several minutes before use, and to boil tap water before drinking.

By Monday morning, the do- not- use advisory was lifted in Brazoria County, but a boil notice remained in Lake Jackson, where the TCEQ, along with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC) and the Environmen­tal Protection Agency are conducting operations to flush and disinfect the city’s water system where the amoeba was found.

“During this period of disinfecti­on and flushing, boiling the tap water makes it safe for drinking and cooking,” a statement from the commission said. “Naegleria fowleri is a type of amoeba that can be managed using standard treatment and disinfecti­on processes.”

To ensure that the water distributi­on system is safe, city workers will convert the disinfecta­nt used in the distributi­on system, from chloramine to free chlorine, a practice known as “chlorine burn.” Chlorine is more useful in inactivati­ng certain types of bacteria that can make it difficult for the systems to maintain a disinfecta­nt residual, the statement said.

Over the weekend, city officials handed out boxes of water for the population of about 27,000 at a temporary distributi­on centre.

The water- loving amoeba is often found in warm lakes, rivers and host springs. People usually get infected when swimming in these locations, as the microbe travels up the nose and into the brain, where it destroys tissue, causing brain swelling and death.

Initial symptoms include headache, fever, vomiting, loss of balance and hallucinat­ions, and they can lead to death, normally within five days. Although infections are rare, the microbe usually is fatal. There have been 145 reported infections in the United States since 1962, from which only four people survived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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