A rare and deadly brain-destroying amoeba was found in a parish water supply in Louisiana, officials said early Thursday, although there were no reported illnesses. The Naegleria fowleri bug was found in the water system serving 12,577 people in the towns of Reserve, Garyville and Mt. Airy, St. John the Baptist Parish representative Paige Falgoust said in a statement. The water, which is now being treated with chlorine, is safe to drink but the infection can pose a risk if it enters the nasal passage. "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.
The bug thrives in warm, untreated fresh water as well as hot springs and hot water heaters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has also been found in untreated swimming pools. Infections with Naegleria fowleri are rare, but they are almost always deadly. Some 132 people are known to have been infected in the more than 50 years from 1962 to 2014, but only three survived, the CDC reports.
- Alastair Jamieson and Linda Carroll