Drinking water in Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish tested positive earlier this month for Naegleria fowleri, the deadly “brain-eating” amoeba.
ABC affiliate WGNO reported that the water samples were taken by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The contamination could affect as many as 12,500 people in the cities of Reserve, Garyville and Mt. Airy, Louisiana.
The water in St. John Parish is safe to drink, said the CDC, but special care should be taken not to allow it to go up the nose, which is the route the parasite takes to infect the brain. Once inside the brain, the amoebas cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is almost invariably fatal.
During the early stages of PAM, patients will experience intense frontal headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting. As the disease progresses, symptoms will include seizures, stiff neck, hallucinations, delirium and eventually a coma from which patients seldom, if ever, wake.
Last year, a 12-year-old Arkansas girl survived the infection, making her one of the first patients ever to not succumb to the devastating syndrome.
Two people in Louisiana died in 2012 when their home plumbing systems were invaded by N. fowleri and they used the contaminated water in Neti pots, which some people use to clear their sinuses. Neti pot manufacturers and the CDC have warned users to only use distilled water or tap water that has been boiled and allowed to cool.
This detection of the amoebas in the water in St. Bernard Parish in 2013 was the first time the parasite had been found to have infected an entire metropolitan water system.
Watch video about this story, embedded below via WGNO:
[image of Naegleria fowleri via screencap]