Texas city declares disaster after a six-year-old boy dies from a brain-eating amoeba that contaminates the water supply.
The boy, Josiah McIntyre, who lived in Lake Jackson, Texas, died of a rare infection with the amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri.
Naegleria fowleri is naturally found in warm freshwaters, such as lakes and rivers. And people usually become infected after swimming or diving in contaminated freshwater.
Officials believe the amoeba entered Josiah’s body either in their home’s water hose or at a splash pad in the city.
Following the boy’s death, officials tested 11 samples from Lake Jackson’s water supply and found three sources were ‘preliminary positive.’
Some of the samples include waters from a city fire hydrant, the splash pad storage tank and Josiah’s home hose faucet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people cannot get infected by swallowing contaminated water. They also said the amoeba can’t pass from person to person.
Infections with Naegleria fowleri are Almost Always Fatal
Those infected have symptoms including fever, nausea and vomiting, and a stiff neck and headaches. And most victims die within a week.
However, infections are rare, with US infections ranging from zero to eight per year.
In addition to Josiah’s case, CDC has reported at least two other fatal cases of Naegleria fowleri this year. One of the victims was a 13-year-old boy who fell ill after swimming in a lake in North Florida.
After officials found the infestation in three different water sources, Lake Jackson closed off its water system.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is now working to flush and disinfect the water system. However, but it’s unclear how long that will take.
Issuing the disaster declaration, Governor Greg Abbott said:
“The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation. [The state will] support the communities whose water systems have been impacted by this ameba.”
“I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials. Take the appropriate precautions to protect [your] health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community.”
Naegleria fowleri is a heat-loving organism. In the US, most infections occur in southern states, particularly during the summer months.
This happens due to prolonged hot weather, which raises the temperature of freshwaters.
According to the CDC, infections may also become common as water temperatures rise due to climate change.