The deadly brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, has been found for the first time in a regular water supply in New Orleans, NBC News reports. Previous reports had indicated that the amoeba was found last week in Saint Bernard Parish after a four year old boy died from the brain-eating organism. He had been playing on a Slip n Slide in his backyard. Now, officials have found the deadly amoeba at four individual locations throughout Saint Bernard Parish. Previously, Naegleria Fowleri had been known only to reside in still lakes and hot natural water. There were also several instances of people dying from the amoeba after they had used a neti pot with stagnant water.
Previous accounts of deaths from the deadly amoeba have been reported after children had gone swimming at lakes. While very rare, each summer the Naegleri Fowleri kills several people. It seems to mostly affect children. It strikes when infected water enters the nasal cavity, after which it crawls up to the brain, where it takes up residence, causing brain swelling and severe symptoms including high fever, headache, confusion and eventually coma and death.
Naegleri Fowleri kills over 99% of its victims. Earlier this year, though, a 12 year old girl survived after receiving an experimental combination drug treatment. A boy suffering from the brain eating amoeba given the same treatment did not survive. The key in successful treatment, doctors say, is early detection of the organism.
Officials in New Orleans say that the water supply remains safe to drink. Even though it is infected with Naegleri Fowleri, they say, the brain eating amoeba is not interested in other body parts or organs except the brain. If ingested, it will travel harmlessly trough the digestive system and be passed through the body without causing any harm. It must enter the brain directly through the nasal passages.
The CDC’s head of water safety, Dr. Michael Beach , says that this event is the first of its kind. “We have never seen Naegleria colonizing a treated water supply before. From a U.S. perspective this is a unique situation,” he said.
Currently, all the water parks, pools and other public water entertainment facilities in Saint Bernard Parish. Authorities are in the process of sanitizing the water supply through adding additional chemicals, such as chlorine. They say that the problem was caused by low chlorination levels in the water supply and that the water is completely safe to drink.
The incident raises questions about water supplies in the rest of the country and whether the deadly brain eating amoeba Naegleria Fowleri could be lurking in thousands of taps in people’s homes. The idea that a deadly organism could crawl up our noses in the shower, for example, is of great concern. Once inside the brain, Naegleri Fowleri not only feasts on brain tissue, but it also reproduces into thousands of additional amoebas, all hungry for brain cells. While this is not an official recommendation from officials, it might be a good idea for everyone to avoid getting any kind of water up their noses at all.
By: Rebecca Savastio