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Lethal Amoeba Confirmed in Louisiana Water Supply: CDC

Update Date: Sep 15, 2013 11:58 AM EDT
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The St. Bernard Parish water system has tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, just a week after government officials assured the community the water was clean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to CNN, the latest test proved there the water still has the brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which is found in hot springs and warm fresh water. State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said on Thursday, "While the water is safe to drink, there is a risk if the amoeba enters the nose. There are basic precautions that families can take - such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses - to protect themselves, though infection from this amoeba is very rare."

The death last week of a 4-year-old boy was caused by the Naegleria fowleri. Infection from the lethal amoeba is rare, it can cause an extremely dangerous brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which usually kills the person who has it in one to 12 days.

Prior to the CDC launching its own investigation into the matter, the parish had started flushing its water lines with chlorine last week as a precaution. Since the amoeba has been confirmed, the parish said they plan to continue flushing out its water in a bid to control the situation.

"We know that chlorine kills Naegleria fowleri, which is why it was critical that the parish proactively began flushing its water system with additional chlorine last week," J.T. Lane, the state's assistant secretary for public health, said in a statement. "The parish will continue this action until it raises chlorine residuals to recommended levels, and this process will continue for several weeks. DHH is working with parish officials to provide assistance and support to the parish's staff to ensure that chlorine levels are being monitored daily."

This summer the amoeba infected the brains of two other US children - a 12-year-old Florida boy, who died, and a 12-year-old Arkansas girl, who survived thanks to an experimental drug and her mother, who convinced doctors that her daughter's flulike symptoms were more than just an ordinary flu. She may be one of only three known to survive the infection in the United States.

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