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Brain-Eating Amoeba Detected in Water Supply of Louisiana Parish

Image: Brain-Eating Amoeba Detected in Water Supply of Louisiana Parish Naegleria fowleri amoeba in the cyst stage, left, trophozoite stage, center, and flagellated stage.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 11:04 AM

The brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri has been detected in the water supply in Louisiana's DeSoto Parish, state health department officials said Wednesday. One death already has been reported there.

The News Star in Monroe reported that Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sampled the water system in DeSoto and sent it to the Center for Disease Control for additional testing. Officials said the affected water systems will be flushed with additional chlorine to kill the amoeba.

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"We are working closely with the water system and parish officials to ensure that the chlorine levels are increased to a level that will eliminate the risk of exposure to the amoeba," J.T. Lane, the DHH Office of Public Health's assistant secretary, told the News Star. "Water from the DeSoto Parish Water Works District No. 1 remains safe to drink; however, we do have guidance for residents on steps they can take to reduce their risk."

Exposure to Naegleria fowleri has historically occurred as a result of swimming or diving in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, according to the News Star. The newspaper said an infection of from the amoeba cannot occur by drinking water.

"Families can take simple steps to protect themselves from exposure to this amoeba, the most important being to avoid allowing water to go up your nose while bathing or swimming in a pool," said Louisiana State Health officer Jimmy Guidry. "It is important to remember that the water is safe to drink; the ameba cannot infect an individual through the stomach."

The Shreveport Times reported that deaths from the brain-eating amoeba are rare, with 32 infections from the parasite being reported from 2001 to 2010. But since 2011, Louisiana has had two Naegleria fowleri-related deaths, one of those in DeSoto.

CNN reported in August that Zachary Reyna, a 12-year-old Florida boy stricken with Naegleria fowleri, died from the parasite. Family members said they believe he contracted the parasite while kneeboarding with friends in a water-filled ditch by their home.

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Kali Hardig, 12, from Arkansas was infected by the parasite this summer but survived with the help of an experimental drug used to treat her. CNN said she became the third in the last 50 years to beat the deadly parasite.

Related stories:

Kali Hardig, 12, Survives Brain-Eating Amoeba, Ready for School (Video)

Brain-Eating Amoeba Infects 12-Year-Old Florida Boy

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