Brain-Eating Amoeba Strikes Louisiana Water Supply, Microorganism Can Cause Brain Swelling And Death

Residents ‘freak out’ over third contamination of potentially fatal amoeba in three years.

Kateryna KonShutterstock

Brain-eating amoeba has been found in water used by residents in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. For the third time in three years, Naegleria fowleri, a potentially deadly microorganism, was discovered after independent testing was conducted on the water supply.

Earlier this week, officials with Terrebonne Consolidated Waterworks warned customers about the contamination. The facility has since switched disinfectants, from chloramine to pure chlorine, to eradicate the brain-eating amoeba.

“Anything that’s in there is toast, It’s gone,” Michael Sobert, general manager for Consolidated, told WWL News.

The Lafourche Parish Water District, which purchases water from Consolidated, also issued a similar warning to its customers about the brain-eating amoeba.

Consolidated plans to test the water again in two weeks for any signs of the microbes. For now, residents can drink the water but should avoid getting any in their noses. This means being careful in the shower and keeping your head above water in the bathtub and pool. Additionally, children should not be allowed to play with hoses, sprinklers, or Slip ‘N Slides.

“It kinda freaks me out because this is my home, I can’t do what I usually do,” said Terrebonne Parrish resident Lindsey Dupre. “I want to know I’m secure rather than freak out over an amoeba.”

null

The amoeba enters the nose and moves to the brain, causing brain swelling and tissue destruction. An infection from the microorganism is extremely rare, but most people die from it. Of the 143 reported cases from 1962 to 2016, all but four people died. According to Jimmy Guidry, with the Louisiana Department of Health, people are exposed to the amoeba all the time, but very few are actually infected.

If infected, a person will begin experiencing symptoms such as headaches and fever within five days. Eventually, the symptoms worsen to loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations, reports CBS News.

Generally, the organism thrives during the summer months in the warm waters of the southeastern U.S. However, the amoeba has been found in northern states as well.

The switch to pure chlorine to clear out the organism is only a temporary answer. Parish health officials are currently researching more effective solutions to prevent the brain-eating amoeba from coming back again next year. Until then, residents will have to be careful not to get water up their noses.