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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Potentially deadly amoeba found in Terrebonne Parish water

Potentially deadly amoeba found in Terrebonne Parish water

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba has been found in a water system serving about 97,000 people in the Houma area in Terrebonne Parish but state health regulators said Monday the water is safe to drink.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, in a news release, confirmed the presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in the Schriever Water System in Montegut.

Despite the amoeba's presence, officials said residents can drink the water but people should avoid getting it up their noses. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels up the nasal tissues to the brain.

Naegleria fowleri infections are extremely rare. DHH tested the water system as part of the state's new public drinking water surveillance program. The affected system did not meet the required chloramine disinfectant levels.

DHH asked system officials to raise chlorine levels for 60 days to ensure that any remaining amoebas in the water system are eliminated. The parish began the chlorine burn Monday afternoon. It will also conduct a similar burn in the Houma Water system as a precaution.

DHH conducts sampling of public drinking water systems for Naegleria fowleri each summer when temperatures rise. So far, DHH has tested a total of 21 systems for the amoeba. Positive results have previously been discovered this summer in St. Bernard and Ascension parishes. Both parishes are conducting chlorine burns.

Water containing the Naegleria fowleri amoeba poses a risk to people if water gets up someone's nose and has access to a person's brain.

Since 2011, three deaths in Louisiana have been attributed to the amoeba, prompting DHH to order the state's water systems to raise their chlorination levels to 0.5 ppm by February 2014. Previously, only trace amounts of chlorine were required.

Naegleria fowleri causes a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, which is a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms may be similar to bacterial meningitis.

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