US health officials have confirmed the presence of a ‘brain-eating’ amoeba in the water supply of several communities near New Orleans.
Ascension Parish and St Bernard Parish have each discovered Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that enters through the nose and attacks the brain.
Officials have begun a 60 day “chlorine burn” to kill off the deadly pathogen.
Water from the tap is safe to drink, officials say, but should be prevented from entering the nose.
This is the second time in two years that the amoeba has been discovered outside New Orleans.
The water system currently serves about 44,000 people, according to ABC News. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the system served 68,000.
During a screening of the water supply after the rediscovery of the amoeba, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) found that chlorine levels were not being maintained at the level needed to kill off the dangerous organism.
‘Destruction of brain tissue’
Chlorine levels are being increased to higher-than-required levels to ensure that the remaining amoebae are removed.
The amoeba can lead to a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) “which is a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue,” according to the LDHH.
In 2013, a 4-year-old boy from St Bernard parish died after becoming infected with Naegleria fowleri after playing on an inflatable water slide.