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Brain-eating amoeba in a water pipe: Texas city declares natural disaster

On Saturday, September 26, the city of Lake Jackson, Texas, issued a disaster statement over the contamination of drinking water by a brain-eating amoeba. The city has a ban on the use of water, and the authorities have requested permission from the state to declare an emergency. Writes about it CBS News.

Photo: Shutterstock

“The City of Lake Jackson, Brazoria County, Texas, faces significant threats to life, health and property from contaminated drinking water,” says an urgent request for assistance sent to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. "The impact of this threat is serious and can cause illness and death."

Lake Jackson Mayor Bob Sipple wrote that the incident was "so serious and massive" that the city cannot deal with the threat on its own.

Late Friday night, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality alerted the Brazosport Water Administration of potential water contamination with Naegleria fowleri (brain-eating amoeba).

Authorities initially warned eight cities against using tap water for any reason other than flushing toilets, but on Saturday they dropped the warning for everyone except Lake Jackson. There is a water treatment plant in the city of over 27 inhabitants.

The recommendation will remain in effect until the plumbing system is thoroughly flushed and tests on water samples show that the water in the system is safe for use again. The government's statement did not specify how long it will take to purify the water completely.

The source of water for the town is the Brazos River.

According to a press release, the city first learned about the amoeba after a six-year-old boy became infected.

“On September 8, 2020, the Brazoria County Health Department contacted Lake Jackson about a 6-year-old boy who was hospitalized for a rare and often fatal infection with a brain-eating amoeba,” the statement said. "After he was diagnosed, the family pointed to two possible sources of water where he could have been exposed to the amoeba: one is a splash guard at the Jackson Lake Community Center, and the other is a hose at his house."

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Subsequently, all potential sources were checked in the city. Initial test results for Naegleria Fowleri were negative, but later three of the eleven samples submitted to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for preliminary testing were positive.

Three positive results came from a water storage tank, a household garden hose, and a “downtown fire hydrant”. Three samples were the only ones taken using the "collection by filtration method".

According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba or single-celled living organism commonly found in warm fresh water and soil. Infection usually occurs when water enters the body through the nose and from there to the brain, and can cause a rare and debilitating condition called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

The infection often occurs when people swim or dive in warm, freshwater areas such as lakes and rivers. In very rare cases, it can also occur when contaminated water from other sources enters the nose (for example, insufficiently chlorinated pool water or heated and polluted tap water).

There were 2009 cases of infection in the United States between 2018 and 34, according to the CDC. In most cases, people were infected in recreational water, and three became infected after nasal irrigation using contaminated tap water. One person contracted the tap water used in the backyard.

Earlier this month, the teenage boy's family stated that he died of a brain-eating amoeba after vacationing at a Florida campsite in August.

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