Brain-eating amoeba found in Louisiana parish water for 3rd time in as many years

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
June 19, 2018, 1:56:25 PM EDT

A recent discovery of a rare, but often deadly, brain-eating amoeba has Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish on alert.

This is the third time the amoeba, known as Naegleria fowleri, has been found in the parish’s water supply in the last three years, according to CBS News.

On Sunday, June 10, the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Waterworks district identified positive results after testing for the amoeba, which was found in the community of Pointe-aux-Chenes.

Naegleria fowleri

Naegleria is an amoeba commonly found in the environment, in water and soil. Only one species of Naegleria has been found to infect humans, Naegleria fowleri. (Image/CDC)

“After consultation with Louisiana Department of Health engineers, we have changed our disinfection procedure from chloramine to free chlorine,” officials said.

CBS News reports that the threat of the amoeba is keeping residents away from swimming pools and nearby bayous, even amid the sweating Louisiana heat. Drinking water and shower water can also become contaminated.

"It kinda freaks me out because this is my home; I can't do what I usually do," Lindsey Dupre told WWL-TV. "I want to know I'm secure rather than freak out over an amoeba."

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic ameba that can cause rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)." It is commonly found in warm freshwater.

People can get infected when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. Infection, which is considered rare, usually occurs when people go swimming in bodies of freshwater such as lakes and rivers. The CDC emphasizes that people cannot become infected by drinking water contaminated with Naegleria.

The best way to prevent an infection is to avoid having water go up the nose when swimming or in the shower.

Only four people out of 143 in the United States have survived infection from 1962 to 2016, the CDC states.

While cases of the brain-eating amoeba typically arise in the southern U.S., reports of infection have come from as far north as Minnesota.

There have not been any reports of people contracting any illness in the area since the discovery of the amoeba.

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