The water supply of St. Bernard Parish, a suburb of New Orleans, has been found contaminated by an amoeba that is known to be potentially deadly, for the second time in the last two years. Officials from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals enstated a 60-day “chlorine burn”, effective from Thursday to make certain the pathogen is eradicated from the water supply.
Water was being flushed and retested to determine if the amoeba was present anywhere else in the 225-mile water system, Jacob Groby, quality control chief for St. Bernard Parish Water and Sewer Division, said.
St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta says the pipe was cracked in a recent accident.
“What we believe we have had happen is there’s been an infiltration of the water that was pulled around the sampling station,” said Peralta.
Naegleria fowleri bacteria, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba”, occurrs naturally in freshwater. It causes the disease primary amoebic meningoencephalitis and is known to be deadly if it enters the body through the nose and makes its way into the brain.
Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, from Vanderbilt University Medical School, cautioned people in the area to take steps for staying safe, especially ensuring their pools are kept properly chlorinated, and stopping children from playing with hoses to stay cool.
Illustration: John Wildgoose, Wellcome Images