Nightly News   |  September 17, 2013

Brain-eating amoeba has Louisiana residents on edge

According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the first time the deadly parasite has ever been discovered in a treated water supply system. It could take weeks before the system is completely clear. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

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>>> a lot of people in the new orleans area are wondering tonight whether their drinking water is truly safe after the discovery of a parasite in the drinking water . it has led to extreme measures. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian, and according to the cdc, this is the first time this germ has been found in a treated water supply . and for the residents of st. bernard parish, it certainly is a worry. at the elementary school here in st. bernard parish, the water fountains are being shut down, water bottles handed out. a recent discovery of this amoeba was found in the drinking water .

>> most of this is usually found in the lakes during the summer. it latches onto a nerve in the nose and crawls up the nerve, goes to the brain where it causes extensive damage, usually resulting in death.

>> reporter: even though the infection is not gotten by drinking or bathing in the water, they are flushing the water system with extra chlorine after a 4-year-old from mississippi died from ingesti ining the amoeba through his nose. he was later tested and found positive for carrying the germ.

>> it is something that occurs here. it is here, we know that much.

>> reporter: since 1962 , there have only been 130 documented cases of this infection in the u.s. and so far, just two survivors. 12-year-old kelly harding was one of them. despite being told the water in st. bernard parish is safe, residents are nervous.

>> i mean, we use water for everything.

>> would you feel comfortable getting in the pool? getting a shower? i wouldn't.

>> reporter: health officials say it could take weeks before the water system is completely clear, and until then, they urge caution.

>> we really want to avoid any water going up the nose, head, under the water until this whole remediation and chlorine flushing is done.

>> reporter: and of course, st. bernard parish is one of the harder-hit areas during katrina. because of that, the health officials say they're looking to the empty lots where the water supply is just sitting in the sun, uncirculating, and whether or not it contributed to the germ, so far, the cdc says they're not aware