‘Brain-eating’ amoeba found in US drinking water supply for first time
Deadly parasite that led to death of four-year-old came from mains tap in residential area of St Bernard Parish, Louisiana
A parasite which causes a deadly “brain-eating” infection has been found in Louisiana’s mains water supply after the death of a four-year-old boy in his own back garden.
Residents in the parish of St Bernard, near New Orleans, have been issued with a warning along with a list of precautions that must be taken before they can drink water from the tap.
The southern state’s Department for Health and Hospitals issued a statement confirming that “the encephalitis death of a child that had visited St. Bernard Parish was connected to the rare amoeba, which testing confirmed was present at the home”.
The amoeba – Naegleria fowleri – enters the brain via contaminated water which is inhaled through the nose, leading to an infection which destroys brain tissue.
The US’s centre for disease control said the initial symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death in “one to 12 days”.
The amoeba cannot reach the brain if people only drink the water, and it is killed off by boiling or chlorinating liquids before drinking. The child who died in Louisiana is believed to have been infected after playing on a “slip and slide” in the garden.
State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said: “The water is safe to drink and there are basic precautions that families can take – such as chlorinating their pools and avoiding getting water in their noses – to protect themselves, though infection from this amoeba is very rare.”
In the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, 32 infections caused by Naegleria fowleri were across the whole of the US. And until very recently, there were only two cases ever recorded in North America of people surviving the amoeba.
Those cases were joined last week by a 12-year-old Arkansas girl who was sent home from hospital after recovering from the infection she contracted in July.
Kali Hardig said in a press conference last Wednesday that she was “lucky to be alive”, and her mother said: “The first 22 days being in ICU, you just never knew. You're told the worst news possible, and then to go from that outcome to ... get to actually take her home, I mean, I got to watch a miracle unfold right in front of my eyes.”
Doctors said Kali's survival is due in large part to experimental treatment and early detection and diagnosis, but in its advice released on Friday Louisiana officials stressed that preventative measures are better than a cure.
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...
£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...
£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...