Last Saturday the city of Lake Jackson in Texas issued a disaster declaration after detecting Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that can cause a fatal infection, in local water supplies, informs Fox News.
Earlier this month a 6-year old boy died after becoming infected with the microbe. The investigation after the boy’s death included water sample tests by health authorities, which found the amoeba in the city’s water system, including a positive sample from the hose bib of the boy’s home.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the naturally occurring amoeba Naegleria fowleri can cause primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), an infection which is usually fatal. The amoeba is found in warm freshwater (lakes, rivers, and hot springs) and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that infection can also occur when contaminated water from other sources (swimming pool water that has not been properly chlorinated or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose, but not by swallowing the water. It is a rare disease, with 145 infections documented in the US by the CDC from 1962 to 2018.
While initially a “do not use water” advisory was issued for several communities in the greater Houston area served by the Brazosport Water Authority, it was narrowed on Saturday morning to the Lake Jackson water distribution system, and that same evening lifted and replaced by a “boil water notice”. The TCEQ indicates that the amoeba can be managed using standard treatment and disinfection processes. Together with city authorities, they are working on flushing and disinfecting the water system. Until completed, boiling tap water makes it safe for drinking and cooking, but additional precautions should be taken for other uses, including bathing and showering.