Brain-eating amoeba in Texas water supply kills six-year-old

pharmafile | September 30, 2020 | News story | Research and Development amoeba, brain eating ameoba 

Officials in Texas have said it could take two to three months to disinfect the water supply in Lake Jackson after a brain-eating amoeba killed a six-year-old boy. 

The child, Josiah McIntyre, died earlier this month after being infected with the parasite known as Naegleria fowleri. His mother said her son became ill with flu-like symptoms, and quickly deteriorated to the point where he found it hard to stand and communicate. 

Texas issued a disaster declaration for Brazoria County, where McIntyre died, and a boil order is in effect in the area while officials examine the local water supply. Residents have also been told to stop water getting into their nose when bathing, showering, swimming and washing their face. 

Resolving the issue will take months. Local officials will have to get through the boil water order first, then get the chlorine levels to a concentration that will kill the amoebas, with further testing then required to ensure that they are gone. 

Toby Baker, the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said that this type of amoeba is very rare and believes it has never shown up in the Texas public water system before. It is usually found in warm freshwater and soil. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott commented on the situation: “We want to get to the bottom of exactly what caused this problem. We want to get to the bottom of understanding the magnitude to which this problem exists in this community.” He added that Texas and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are moving to “make sure that it is fixed as quickly as possible and to make sure that it never happens again.”

The Lake Jackson area has 27,000 residents, and Baker said that an investigation will be conducted to assess if there are any other places where unfiltered water could be entering the water system and potentially spreading the amoeba. 

This same amoeba was recently discovered in Florida in July when a person was infected in Hillsborough county. 

Between 2009 and 2018, there were only 34 infections reported in the US. Only 30 of those were infected by recreational water, three after performing nasal irrigation with contaminated water and one by using contaminated tap water while gardening. Between 1962 and 2018, 145 people from the US have contracted the infection and only four have survived.

Conor Kavanagh

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