BOTTLED water sales have skyrocketed while officials try to pin down the source of a deadly amoeba found in the water supply of a parish in the US state of Louisiana, and some people worry about washing their faces in the shower.
That’s despite experts who say the only danger is to people who manage to get the microscopic organism way up their noses. It’s only entry to the brain is through minute openings in a bone about level with the top of the eyeball, said Dr Raoult Ratard, Louisiana’s state epidemiologist.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals on Thursday tried to dispel common “myths and rumours” about the amoeba Naegleria fowleri – starting with the notion that the water in St Bernard parish isn’t safe to drink.
The worries began on September 12, when the state health department reported that water in the Violet and Arabi communities outside New Orleans tested positive for the amoeba that killed a four-year-old Mississippi boy in August after he visited St Bernard Parish.
There have been 132 documented infections from the amoeba since 1962, almost all of them fatal, health officials say.
Both of Louisiana’s 2011 infections were of people who used tap water to flush out their sinuses. However, in each of the earlier cases, Yoder said the amoeba was found in the house’s hot water system but not in either municipal water or water coming from the home’s cold water tap.
Stomach acids, boiling and chlorine all will kill the amoeba.
Many people think water should test free of the amoeba before they use it, DHH said, but testing tap water for the amoeba is not as important as making sure that it holds enough chlorine to kill the creature.
To get the recommended level of one-half part chlorine per million at the system’s outer reaches, the parish has been putting about eight times that amount into the water at its treatment plant, said Jake Causey, chief engineer for the state Office of Public Health’s engineering services section.
Investigators may never know just how Naegleria got into the pipes.
- Brain-eating amoeba rattles nerves in Louisiana (nzherald.co.nz)
- Brain-eating amoeba found in drinking water of New Orleans community (theprovince.com)
- Brain-Eating Amoeba Possibly Linked To Hurricane Katrina; Is Louisiana’s Water Safe? (medicaldaily.com)