Dangerous Brain Eating Amoeba Found in Louisiana Tap Water

Signs of Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that eats the brain, was found in Louisiana tap water during routine testing in two systems

Signs of the existence of Naegleria fowleri, which is a single-celled organism that can cause a rare fatal disease, were discovered during routine water testing of Ouachita Parish’s North Monroe Water System and Terrebonne Parish’s Schriever Water System.

Officials from the Health department assured residents that the tap water is still safe to drink; however, they warned people to avoid getting it in their noses.

The amoeba infections occur when contaminated water enters the nose and travels to the brain where it starts destroying the brain tissue. This disease is mainly known as amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM.

Early symptoms of PAM are similar to those of bacterial meningitis, and include headache, fever, and nausea. As the illness progresses, stiff neck, seizures, and hallucinations start to occur. Unfortunately, in most cases, death follows soon.

The fatality rate is over 97% in the US, even though it is a rare affliction, with only 40 reported cases between 2007 and 2016.

The health officials also put accent on the fact that drinking the contaminated water cannot lead to infection. However, using it for nasal irrigation or accidentally getting it into the nose can. Of the 40 cases in the US since 2007, four were caused by contaminated tap water. Nasal irrigation was at the base of 3 infections, while the fourth involved a person using a backyard slip-n-slide.

According to CDC, the majority of infections in the US involved people swimming or driving along lakes and rivers.

This week, the health department in Louisiana issued a list of warnings to avoid infection. It includes flushing out pipes by allowing shower taps and hoses to run for 5 minutes before use, and using only “boiled and cooled, distilled or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ablutions.”

Furthermore, they told to water systems to use the “free chlorine method” for 60 days to kill the remaining amoeba.